by Ray Boland
climbed down into the sub following Terry and Sean. There
are very few people in the world that get to do what Terry
Kerby does for a living. Terry Kerby is a sub driver and
he has been doing it for nearly 20 years. If you have ever
seen any movie where there were mini subs being used (James
Bond flicks, The Abyss, to name a few) chances are you've
seen Terry driving those subs. Sean was the other new observer,
and Terry was familiarizing us with the features of the
sub while it was safely tucked away in its hangar. The sphere
of the sub is about 7 feet in diameter, so it took a few
steps to climb down into the sub.
The cabin was cramped with all three of us in it. There
were two shelves along either side of the sphere that had
a cushion on it, Sean and I sat opposite each other. Terry
took a seat at the front that looked like a single small
cushion. The interior of the sub instantly reminded me of
the interiors of the early space capsules. Rows of switches
and dials dominated most of the interior. The panels of
switches and controls were painted an institutional blue,
giving it that all business look. At the back was a shelf
that housed VCRs and also served as the ladder. The view
ports seemed to be at the bottom of the cabin. Two were
on either side at the head of each cushioned shelf and one
centrally. It was quite obvious that the central view port
was where the pilot "sat". The observers were
to lay on either side, looking out of their respective view
ports. The pilot would be crouched over forward, laying
his chest and forehead on a support while kneeling. The
positions looked extremely cramped and uncomfortable. There
was no space to layout fully, I would have to fold my legs
over my back to lie flat.
ran through the features of the sub: safety precautions,
operating procedures and the tasks that an observer would
be doing. He showed us the controls to the two robotic arms
and howthey worked, how the video cameras were operated
and the controls to piloting the sub. The controls to piloting
were a big let down. There was no joystick, just a switch
for attitude control and two small levers for throttles.
Since the sub is electric, the throttles controlled the
amount of juice going to the thrusters. Terry also told
us that at depth, it could get cool, so we should bring
some warm clothes. It was a good idea to wear socks, but
no shoes. Finally he warned us about a final concern. "There
is no bathroom. Just some bags to go in. We'll be down for
8 hours, so you might want to watch your intake. Any questions?"
looked about the sub's cabin and couldn't think of any questions.
I felt like I was about to shoot into space. In this case,
it was inner space. I was an astronaut of inner space: an
aquanaut. I remember how astronauts looked as they drifted
about their cramped space cabin on the shuttle. Sometimes
they wore t-shirts, shorts and socks in zero g. I would
be dressed the same attire, no fancy space suit, no fancy
jumpsuit. The more I thought about it, the more I felt that
tiny thrill of exploration. That small bit of worry and
hesitation before you embark on something new, but still
you go because the excitement of exploration pulls you forward.
I was going into inner space, in an inner space ship.