Napa, California is near ground zero in California’s beautiful wine country – and it’s also home to the Undersea Voyager Project and their 2-man submarine dubbed “The Great White”. With the help of several volunteers who are donating their time and expertise, UVP founder Scott Cassell is now in his Napa workshop preparing the 2-man submersible for their next round of dives, including an exciting mission in January 2015 to dive with bull sharks in Cancun, Mexico.
A brief background of the Great White
While the UVP has owned the Great White since 2007, it’s not a new sub, and it’s life goes back many years before then. Scott shared with us a brief background on how the Great White was transformed from a rusty hull to an international traveler, with the help of a dedicated team of volunteers and donors:
“In the summer of 2007 I was told about a little one-person sub in someone’s backyard. Soon thereafter an acquaintance introduced me to a retiring radiologist who owned the Kittredge K-250 submersible.
The K-250 was designed by the honored Capt (Ret) George Kittredge. It’s a very successful design with a depth rating of 250 feet of seawater, although testing indicated the subs were very capable of going much deeper. The radiologist had the sub for over 20 years. During his ownership in the 1980s he successfully sank the sub once and had to mount a salvage expedition to recover it. He nearly killed himself a few times diving the sub improperly and recklessly, and then decided to store it outside for nearly two decades, allowing it to deteriorate.”
When the non-profit Undersea Voyager Project started in 2007, it was 100% funded by individual donors. The original hull of the Great White was purchased with a $10,000 donation, and the process of reconstruction began. After 5 years of cleanup, redesign, and refurbishing all of its major systems, the overhauled Great White was once again seaworthy and began diving again.
“The modifications we made are all based on proven technology and designs of operating submersibles. I have over 900 dives as Pilot in Command on the SeaMagine submersibles, so I used concepts applied to those subs simply due to their unrivaled reliability and toughness.”
One year ago, in July 2013, Scott Cassell and his team of volunteers took the sub for a series of dives in the Sierra’s beautiful Pinecrest lake, where it completed more than a dozen test dives to test improved electronics, ballast controls, and thrusters.
Immediately following the successful test dives, the sub was shipped overseas to Asia. Scott and his team took government officials and dignitaries on dives down to the local coral reefs, where they were taught about the local ecosystems, and more importantly, the damage that was occurring in local waters.
After being displayed in Singapore the campaign visited China and Tioman Island, Malaysia, where the sub made 36 dives and took many locals down underwater for the first time – including 33 journalists, and other concerned citizens of the country. The team was interviewed by many other journalists from Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Sumatra.
Repairs and upgrades for 2015
The 30+ dives and 6,000 miles across the Pacific ocean on a cargo ship took it’s toll, however. To transport it there and back, it was crated and sent on a large freight ship to and from Los Angeles. It was a bumpy ride, and after returning, the Great White needed some attention
The Great White is undergoing a series of repairs and upgrades to prepare her for the next rounds of dives. And as Scott explains, there are some exciting plans for the future:
Want to be a part of the project?
As a nonprofit organization, the Undersea Voyager Project is looking for volunteers and donors to help out with preparing the submarine, and the Undersea Voyager Project organization as a whole. Specifically, welders, machinists, and those with an engineering background are needed; additional help is also needed in marketing and public relations. Those who contribute their time and expertise become a part of the Undersea Voyager Project as well, and may even have the opportunity to join the submarine on one of her missions.
Are you interested in helping out the Undersea Voyager Project? If you have a skill that might be helpful, drop Scott Cassell an email by clicking here.