Anyone who has ever gone SCUBA diving knows that the deeper one goes, the more complications could potentially arise. Equalizing to the pressure becomes more difficult, the temperature plummets, and the rise back to the surface must be undertaken slowly and with caution. Even the deepest sea divers don’t exceed a depth of 1,000 feet (and even if they did, being able to actually function down there would be another story), and people like me with a basic open-water diving certification are technically only supposed to dive about 60 feet below the surface. The new Exosuit is poised to change that.
Well, it won’t change my depth limit, sadly, but it will likely change the depths at which real deep-sea divers can function. The Exosuit is more than just a suit — it’s an “atmospheric diving system,” which makes it sound more Jacques Cousteau and less Wall Street. It was designed by Nuytco Research, an undersea technology developer in North Vancouver. Nuytco’s best known devices are the 2000-foot microsubmersibles, which are single- and double-pilot submarines used for surveying, construction, and deep-sea photography. Basically, they’re undersea pod racers.
Phil Nuytten, a deep sea explorer, founder, and President of Nuytco Research, and its sister company Can-Dive services, has, for over 40 years, worked on technology to increase the depth, length, and safety of underwater dives, and he was particularly instrumental in the development of the Exosuit’s rotary joint, which maintains flexibility and dexterity in the 600-pound aluminum alloy suit.
The Exosuit can, like an airplane or a submarine, maintain surface-level cabin pressure as the wearer descends down to 1,000 feet. It features an oxygen system that can carry up to 50 hours of O2, as well as a 50-hour carbon dioxide scrubber, a back-up battery, and an atmospheric monitoring system. The suit has propulsion thrusters, Ethernet and fiber optic capabilities, audio in and out jacks, sonar, a lighting system, and audio and video recording devices. The Exosuit has a bendable and neutrally buoyant umbilical cord that delivers its power and stretches 1,250 feet. My 60-feet dives are starting to sound like child’s play.
Basically, the suit sounds like a diver’s own personal, body-shaped submarine, except that it allows for more up-close interaction with the deep-sea environment. Nuytco and Nuytten’s ultimate goal is to make continental shelf depths accessible to a full range of divers while preventing decompression sickness so humans can explore and protect the oceans.
The National Geographic Society is all over this project. “The concept of a new vehicle that allows a lengthy personal visit to depths within this [200 to 500-foot] Mesophotic zone, and beyond (without physiological limitations), is salivating,” says explorer Michael Lombardi.
Jacques Cousteau would be thrilled. And jealous. That makes two of us.