The CACHALOT on site in the Gulf of Mexico, 1966. CONTRIBUTED

History of Diving Museum’s next virtual Immerse Yourself presentation is set to feature a Keys local who worked within the commercial diving industry for decades.

Set for Sept. 16 at 7 p.m., Jon Hazelbaker, who’s also a HDM board member, will talk about his experience in hard-hat diving, working in the field and managing dive teams, which have provided the History of Diving Museum a wealth of knowledge and history over the years. 

During the lecture, Hazelbaker will discuss the “CACHALOT” saturation diving system, which was used to perform the first commercial saturation diving projects for the U.S. inland and offshore diving industries. The “CACHALOT” decompression chamber configuration, process and methodology became a blueprint for how commercial saturation diving is done today. Hazelbaker will also cover the basics of saturation diving and information on other early hyperbaric habitats.

In 1965, the “CACHALOT” system was used to work on the raw water intake of the Smith Mountain Dam located in Virginia. The construction of the dam was unique because the water system could manage the flow to run both downstream and reverse to push water upstream. Use of the saturation diving system saved hundreds of man hours by allowing divers to stay underwater at an average depth of 200 feet for extended periods without worrying about decompression. The following year, the “CACHALOT” would be used for the first commercial saturation diving project in the Gulf of Mexico for an oilfield salvage project at a depth of 235 feet.

Hazelbaker will speak on diving projects and how the system’s unique features would eventually be placed in modern commercial diving projects. He will also be sharing early photos and stories from the family members of George Wiswell, one of the developers of the “CACHALOT” and contractor for both projects. 

Hazelbaker will also provide examples of other saturation units that were being used at the time and how those have evolved into what’s seen today. He will also discuss the efforts the museum has made to acquire this commercial diving equipment as its first major outdoor exhibit.

The museum and Hazelbaker will be co-hosting the presentation live through a private Zoom meeting. Those interested in joining can email Emily Kovacs, community outreach coordinator, at [email protected] or call the museum at 305-664-9737 to receive the Zoom meeting number and password. Capacity will be limited, so register to reserve a spot. The museum will stop taking reservations at 12 p.m. on Sept. 16 or when there are 100 registered participants. The session will be recorded and posted on the HDM YouTube page.

September’s sponsor is Easy Storage LLC at the Diving Museum. The museum greatly appreciates their continued support for events, educational outreach and more. To become a sponsor, contact Lisa Mongelia, executive director, at [email protected].

Join Our Blast – Keys News Right to Your INBOX