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Extraordinary underwater living project re-visited



Bournemouth and Poole Sub Aqua Club in the UK celebrated their 60th anniversary by recounting the inspirational story of a former member who made history by living underwater for an entire week.

Back in September 1965, Colin Irwin, who was then aged 19 and science officer for the club, spent seven days on the seabed of Plymouth Sound in a specially made steel cylinder to investigate long-term survival in an underwater habitat.

The Glaucus Project – named after a Greek sea god – was a tremendous success and still has its place in the Guinness Book of Records.

Colin gave a gripping account of his adventure to members of the club when they gathered to mark its 60th anniversary at a special event in the Harbour View Suite of the RNLI College in Poole on Saturday 29th March.

Inspired by similar experiments carried out in the early 1960s by legendary French diver Jacques Cousteau, he decided to set up a project to put an undersea habitat in place and occupy it for a week along with fellow club member John Heath, then 21.

Adrian King, who has been a member of the club since 1976 and served as its chairman for the past six years, said: “Even by modern standards this was a hugely ambitious project which at the time – and indeed since – had only been attempted by a few majorly funded operations such as Jacques Cousteau and the likes of the America Sea Lab.

“A sub-committee was formed to raise the £1,000 needed to finance the project. The father of one of the members owned a local boatyard and they built the steel cylinder for the project from scratch. Weighing two tons, it was 3 .7 metres long and 2.1 metres in diameter, standing on legs and ballasted by weight in a tray beneath it.

“Entry was made via a tube on the underside which was open to the water. Pressure inside would therefore be the same as the surrounding water, resulting in the divers being at pressure for the duration of the project.

“The main cylinder was equipped with two compartments, a main living area and a separate toilet compartment.

“The two young men kept in touch with the surface via an old ex-army wind up telephone and there was also a small CCTV camera to allow the condition of the crew to be monitored constantly from above.

“The cylinder was towed into place by a tug then lowered 35 feet or 11 metres to the seabed near the Breakwater Fort and marked by a buoy on the surface.”

Adrian added: “Where this one differed significantly from the Cousteau and American experiments was that the Glaucus Project cylinder was not linked to the surface by an airline but had its own artificially maintained air environment with a chemical `scrubber’ to remove the carbon dioxide.

“It was for this reason and the length of time the two men spent underwater that Glaucus still has a place in the Guinness Book of Records.

“The cylinder was far from comfortable to be in with the temperature being about 16 degrees. In addition the near 100% humidity caused by the open entrance meant that condensation was colossal and keeping anything dry became almost impossible. Food and drinks were sent down to them in army field pressure cookers.

“Despite these difficult conditions Colin and John continued with the project and even ventured from the cylinder into the surrounding waters to conduct a number of surveys aimed at proving the ability of divers to both live and work at depth.”

At the end of seven days, attempts to slowly bring the cylinder to the surface were abandoned due to buoyancy problems and the two crew members eventually made their way to the surface wearing scuba gear.

Colin Irwin, who now lives in the Liverpool area, has enjoyed a varied life of adventure including working for National Geographic magazine and sailing on a yacht through the North West Passage of Canada.

Now aged 68, he is a Research Fellow in the Department of Politics at the University of Liverpool and in the Institute of Governance at Queen’s University Belfast.

Colin said: “Although it was nearly 50 years ago I still clearly remember the time John and I spent down in the cylinder. In fact, I still have the daily log for the project.

“We had heard about the Cousteau experiments and didn’t want it to be something that was just done by the French, so we thought we would do our own experiment.

“What I recall most about our time in the cylinder is that it was very cold and damp. However, we did have our food sent down in an army thermos.

“After we had been down there for a couple of days a really ferocious gale blew up on the surface but luckily it didn’t affect us too much and the project was able to continue.

“John and I did some experiments in artificial atmosphere while we were down there. We raised the oxygen level to a point where we wouldn’t get the `bends’ when we came up and I think this must have worked because we didn’t get them.”

The Glaucus cylinder is still underwater not far from its original site. It is dived regularly and the club now has a project to fix a plaque to the structure marking the achievement of 49 years ago.

To find out more about the Bournemouth and Poole SAC, click here.



Marine Life & Conservation

Watch The Real Watergate from Live Ocean Foundation (Trailer)



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Marine Life & Conservation

World Oceans Day: Fourth Element and Love The Oceans join forces




Fourth Element, a leading provider of high-quality dive gear, and Love The Oceans, a non-profit organization dedicated to marine conservation, have announced their new partnership on World Oceans Day, June 8th, 2023. This collaboration represents a shared commitment to protecting our oceans and promoting sustainable practices within the diving community.

Love The Oceans is widely recognized for their exceptional work in marine conservation and their dedication to community development in Mozambique. The organization’s approach involves not only protecting marine wildlife and habitats but also empowering local communities to become guardians of their own environment.

Photo: Kaushiik Subramaniam

They place a strong emphasis on empowering women in the field of marine conservation. The team actively supports and encourages women to participate in their research programs, providing opportunities for training, leadership development, and career advancement, inspiring a new generation of female scientists and conservationists.

Love The Oceans seek out passionate individuals within local communities and provide them with training and resources. Fourth Element will then support these champions to become divers and ambassadors of the ocean, spreading awareness, implementing sustainable practices, and inspiring others to join the movement.

Photo: Mario Guilamba

“We are thrilled to embark on this partnership with Love The Oceans,” said Jim Standing, co-founder of Fourth Element. “Our shared commitment to sustainable practices and marine conservation makes this collaboration a natural fit. We believe that by joining forces, we can amplify our efforts to protect our oceans and inspire positive change within the diving community.”

Francesca Trotman, Founder and CEO of Love The Oceans, expressed her excitement about the collaboration, stating, “We’re thrilled to be working with Fourth Element, a brand that aligns with our values and ethos. This partnership will enable us to get more local community members scuba diving in Mozambique, monitoring our reef systems, and striving for better protection of our marine world. Working together, we’re conserving Mozambique’s coastline for generations to come.”

For more, visit

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