DOXA Team Member Ty Alley was kind enough to take some time and give some background on Mission 31, Fabien Cousteau, and DOXA’s role. This interview was provided by the nice folks at DOXA.
So Ty, why did Fabien Cousteau choose to use a mechanical dive watch for the mission instead of a modern dive computer?
Ty Alley - That’s actually a very good question! Above all else, Fabien chose a mechanical dive watch for its reliability during this long (31 day long) saturation dive. Dive computers are modern instruments used by divers the world over. Having said that, today’s dive computers have no algorithm programmed in to calculate such a long saturation dive as this. Moreover, if one was used it would likely lock up, becoming non-functional after a short period of time, and resistant to the potential damaging effects of gas build up inside the computer’s case. The DOXA SUB Mission 31 is water resistant to 1000 meters. A dive computer isn't, and after being in and out of air and water for 31 consecutive days, it would likely explode upon decompression.
|Courtesy of DOXA|
There are a lot of luxury brand dive watches out there. Why did Fabien Cousteau choose the DOXA SUB?
The DOXA SUB was created in 1967 for one purpose and one purpose only, to be reliable companion for commercial and recreational divers, and has been since, the No.1 choice of professional divers around the world. DOXA and the Cousteau family have a long history together, going back to the original SUB 300 released in 1967. Claude Wesley (Conshelf I and II aquanaut), helped DOXA develop the original DOXA SUB 300 back in 1967, and Jean-Michel Cousteau used the DOXA SUB on many of his his unforgettable expeditions.
|Courtesy of DOXA|
Can you share some more about DOXA and their significance in the dive watch world?
DOXA's involvement with diving (and dive watches in particular) goes back to the early 1960s. Those early watches looked, and functioned similarly to pretty much every other dive watch on the market at the time. Most of those dive watches had their roots in military and professional applications. What none of the watch companies had yet considered was a watch that considered the recreational diver. In the mid to late sixties there was a boom in recreational scuba diving. DOXA recognized the needs of sport divers, and developed the SUB as the ultimate tool for them, the original DOXA SUB was a milestone in the development of dive watches in general, being the first dive watch ever to incorporate the US Navy no decompression dive table on the bezel, also featuring an orange dial to increase legibility under water, also offering the first watch with an extending ratcheting device built into the bracelet that allowed divers to wear their watches with or without their wetsuit without the need of resizing the bracelet.
A lot of people out there liken living in the Aquarius to living in a submarine. Of course this is a false assumption! What is the difference between living in a submarine and in the Aquarius?
In a submarine, the crew experience 1 atmosphere of pressure. This is the same pressure we are experiencing right here at sea level. The crew on a submarine is always experiencing “surface pressure”, so there is no need for submariners to decompress upon surfacing. Having said that, the inhabitants living inside the Aquarius are “enjoying” 3 atmospheres of pressure! At 3 atmospheres of pressure, oxygen and nitrogen will dissolve in the aquanauts’ blood and body tissues. Essentially, they reach what could be termed a point of “gas saturation”. The aquanauts can move freely about the ocean floor for hours on end, but if they want to surface they'll have to undergo 17 hours of decompression to avoid “decompression sickness” or the bends.
|Courtesy of DOXA|
What was your role on Mission 31?
My role was to coordinate all pre-dive logistics for DOXA here in the Florida Keys, as well as “dive” the watches down to Aquarius, so that Fabien Cousteau could use the 31 DOXA SUBs selected for mission wear throughout the project.
|Courtesy of DOXA|
Can you tell us more about the DOXA Mission31 watch, the availability, the specs, and how DOXA is supporting Mission 31?
The Mission31 is a limited edition version of the DOXA SUB, designed especially for this project. The watch and bracelet are entirely made of a light white alloy titanium. The case is 44mm in diameter. DOXA has selected a very reliable Swiss made ETA 2824-2 automatic movement to power the Mission 31 DOXA SUB . There are 331 pieces in total, 31 of which will actually be used on the mission, where Fabien will be wearing one every day along the 31 days of the mission. Each of those pieces will carry the marks of an unforgettable adventure soon to enter the history books. Each watch will also come with a certificate, hand signed by Fabien, more than 25% of sales go to support Mission 31.
Can you tell us something about your experience on board the Aquarius, how long did you spend there?
For a diver of 30 yrs, this was the highlight of my diving career. Aquarius is the last scientific research facility of its kind here in the world, and to be able to dive down to it, and to do this dive on behalf of DOXA was an absolute honor. My total bottom time was 70 minutes, and 50 of those minutes were inside the habitat.
Who is Dirk Cussler and what is the link between Mission 31, the Cusslers and Fabien Cousteau?
Dirk is the son of famed writer Clive Cussler. Clive Cussler's hero in his adventure series, is Dirk Pitt, who wears an orange faced DOXA SUB throughout his adventures. Dirk has co-written six of the Dirk Pitt adventures with his father, and will continue them long after his father lays down his pen. In the world of DOXA, the Cousteau and Cussler families are legendary, so to have them both together at the start of Mission 31 made for a truly remarkable event.
Mission 31 is clearly important, but what are the benefits for those of us on “the surface”?
There's a great deal to be studied and learned throughout the 31 days. Obviously, there is the marine biology and oceanography aspect of it. This includes predator studies, as well as coral research. The team will also be testing new technologies, including different types of imaging systems for underwater use. Perhaps the greatest benefit though is the awareness it brings to mankind’s relationship with the ocean, and to reignite interest and passion toward ocean exploration and conservation. Think about it - 70% of our planet is covered by water, and it's safe to say that it serves as the entire planet's life support system. If we don't take care of it, then it won't take care of us, and that's just a price we can't pay.