Classrooms Under the Sea: Manned Submersibles as Ocean Teaching Tools

The 5 person submersible CuraSub is launched with a 75 ton crane from shore.
The 5 person submersible CuraSub is launched with a 75 ton crane from shore. Photo by Erika Bergman.

Young Explorer Erika Bergman is sharing the thrill of diving in a submersible with classrooms and onlookers all over the world. With external and internal cameras mounted on her sub, viewers will experience a new vantage point as Erika pilots through the deep coral reefs of Curacao and Honduras. Follow her expedition and post your comments right here on Explorers Journal or tweet your questions at @erika_bergman


Far beyond the limits of human anatomy, protected from the crushing pressures and frigid temperatures of the abyss, I look out over the seascape before me in awe. Diving in manned submersibles fuels my passion to venture beyond the realm of our natural environment. It also appears to be a wonderfully engaging incentive for an up and coming generation of oceanographers.

Who wants to be a submarine pilot when they grow up? – If you raised your hand you are not alone.
Photo By Erika Bergman

When I return from the deep, I come back with more than just visual observations but sensations of sound, physical feeling, mental maps and sometimes very personal encounters with marine organisms. These experiences are the tools I utilize to translate abstract ocean concepts into something tangible, even thrilling for an audience with little knowledge of deep sea dynamics.

The adventure of discovering the undiscovered keeps me always reaching for what’s just around the corner, and may get students interested in the paths which lead to their own ocean careers. With a manned submersible as my platform I hope to foster student questions about ocean principles. I am trying to engage students through the language of the Internet, a language most middle and high school students speak fluently. Via Google Hangout, Twitter, Vine, and other social media platforms, teachers and students will be able to broadcast their ocean questions live and receive immediate feedback from the field.

My journey begins on the Southeastern shore of Curaçao. Here, a five person research submersible dives the terraced underwater slopes of the island’s coastline. These slopes are habitat to shallow coral reefs as well as the widely unexplored cold water corals of the deeper ocean. These ecosystems offer an opportunity to explore and film a community of corals which survive below the reach of sunlight. Over the next few weeks I will be ‘diving in’ and ‘logging on’ to bring the deep ocean a little closer to a classroom near you. Join in the discussion! Send twitter questions to @erika_bergman.


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Meet the Author
As a submarine pilot and National Geographic Explorer Erika Bergman is a passionate storyteller. She studied chemical oceanography at the University of Washington while working as a diesel engineer aboard the tall ship S/V Lady Washington and a steam ship engineer aboard the S/S Virginia V. Since then she has worked as a submersible pilot for exploration, research and filmmaking. Erika is an editor of, a site dedicated to supporting and curating a new era of connected, citizen exploration. She is also the Founder of GEECs - Global Engineering & Exploration Counselors; providing a network of thrilling engineering camps to girls around the world. Photo - Heather Perry.