Diving Pioneer Award

The Board of Directors has announced two recipients for this years Diving Pioneer Award.   Captain George F. Bond, USN and Nick Icorn.

The Board of Directors is pleased to announce that Captain George F. Bond, USN, is to be recognized as the 2013 HDS Diving Pioneer Award recipient. Dr. Bond is recognized as the father of American saturation diving and was affectionately known to his SEALAB crews as Papa Topside.

Born in Willoughby, Ohio, on Nov. 14, 1915, Dr. Bond mostly grew up in DeLand, Florida, and was not quite ten years old when his father, a well-to-do lumberman, died. Bond continued to spend summers with his mother, his older sister and brother in western North Carolina, where he got acquainted with a hamlet called Bat Cave. He returned years later, after attending medical school at McGill University, as the first physician to serve Bat Cave and the surrounding backwoods communities. His remarkable efforts were recognized when he was a guest on the popular 1950s TV show “This is Your Life.”

Bond left his rural practice to join the U.S. Navy in 1953 and qualified as a Diving and Submarine Medical Officer. In the process he became fascinated with the physiology and medicine of diving. Bond briefly returned to work as a country doctor but within six months, in early 1957, he was back in the Navy, this time at the Naval Medical Research Laboratory in Groton, Connecticut, where he served briefly as the Assistant Officer-in-Charge before rising to Officer-in-Charge. As head of the lab, which was at the U.S. Naval Submarine Base, Bond was able to initiate what he called Project Genesis, his earliest experiments into saturation diving techniques. With the aid of an informal lab team, most notably Walter Mazzone, a decorated World War II submarine veteran, and another Navy doctor, Robert Workman, Bond sought to prove that humans could in fact withstand prolonged exposure to different breathing gases and increased environmental pressures. This was the beginning of saturation diving and the US Navy’s Man-in-the-Sea Program.

Bond oversaw the different phases of Genesis through to 1963, developing procedures and a team of divers who would eventually become America’s first aquanauts, as Bond liked to call divers who could stay indefinitely on the seabed. Tests were carried out in chambers and laid the groundwork for the much riskier operations of open water trials.

Bond’s success with Genesis led to the establishment of the SEALAB program which placed divers in open water. In 1964 SEALAB I was successfully operated with four aquanauts living for 11 days at 192 fsw. SEALAB I proved that saturation diving in the open ocean was a viable means of expanding the ability to live and work in the sea. The experiment also provided engineering solutions to some of the many challenges, including habitat placement, habitat umbilicals, humidity, and helium speech unscrambling.

SEALAB II was launched in 1965 to assess the feasibility of utilizing saturation techniques and tools “to remain deep beneath the ocean surface indefinitely and accomplish a variety of tasks that would be difficult or impossible to accomplish by repeated dives from the surface.” The 200-ton habitat was lowered to a site off the coast of La Jolla, near San Diego, at a depth of 205 fsw. Bond had lined up three teams of divers who each spent 15 days in the habitat, and made many dives around it, but aquanaut/astronaut Scott Carpenter remained below for a record 30 days. SEALAB III was launched in 1969 but a fatal diver accident led to the cancellation of the program before aquanauts occupied the habitat.

The saturation research gathered from Bond’s work was put to use by the U.S. Navy in later top-secret clandestine diving operations. It was also applied to the commercial diving industry where saturation diving became the standard method for deep-water work.  In 1991, the US Navy posthumously dedicated its Ocean Simulation Facility to Dr. Bond, who had served as an adviser during its construction in the early 1970s at the Navy’s new Experimental Diving Unit in Panama City, Florida. Dr. Bond died on January 3, 1983.

For fuller information on Dr. Bond’s career the Society recommends the books Papa Topside, The Sealab Chronicles of Capt. George F. Bond, USN, edited by Helen A. Siiteri, and SEALAB: America’s Forgotten Quest to Live and Work on the Ocean Floor, by Ben Hellwarth.

The Board of Directors are pleased to announce that former Society Director Nick Icorn is the recipient of the 2013 Historical Diving Society Pioneer Award.

Nick has been called the “Keeper of the Flame” for preserving diving’s illustrious history through his collection and exhibition of sports diving gear. His diving career includes experience in numerous aspects of diving, including working as a design engineer with US Divers, Healthways, Cavalero, Airco Cryogenics, Sherwood Selpac, and Ocean Dynamics. After serving in WWII Nick was accepted for training as a Swimmer Scout in the 1st Beach Reconnaissance Platoon of the Marine Corps. In 1950 he began his recreational diving career and was part of the first formal underwater instructors course conducted at Scripps Institute of Oceanography in 1953. The following year Nick began working with the Los Angeles County Instructor training program and served on its board of directors for twelve years. He continued with his education in diving and was certified as an instructor by NAUI, SSI, YMCA and NASDS, providing him with a very wide perspective on the quality and content of all the training programs in the United States.

In 1970 Nick became PADI’s first and only executive director. At the time, PADI had only 234 instructors, a number that increased to 12,000 worldwide under his watch. The next year he conducted a survey of diving classes throughout the U.S. and wrote the first “Standards and Procedures Manual” for instructors, followed very shortly by his manual “The Basic Scuba Course,” which was a step-by-step comprehensive training manual for basic diving certification. Nick’s third manual, “Open Water Training,” probably changed diver training more than any other publication. It was the first effort to incorporate multiple open water dives in the training process, which was key to making the sport safer.

Nick formulated a dive training program for PADI consisting of five open water dives and then implemented it under the new certification of “Open Water Diver.” He went on to write a series of specialty courses for those who wanted more advanced or specialized training, but who were not necessarily interested to proceed on the path to instructor. The industry benefited enormously from the influx of more experienced, confident divers who were safe in open water conditions and continued diving and training throughout their lives.

Over the years, Nick has assembled a museum of historical scuba diving equipment that is considered unequaled. The Historical Diving Society recognised Nick’s immeasurable contributions by creating The HDS Nick Icorn Diving Heritage Award, which is presented annually. Nick is the recipient of numerous national awards and was inducted into the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame in 2010.

The Society congratulates Nick on this significant career recognition.

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