The Tektite Habitat
was placed in Great Lameshur Bay, St. John, Virgin Islands
in 1969 and again in 1970. The underwater laboratory was the home to divers during Tektite I and II programs. The Tektite program was the first scientists-in-the-sea sponsored nationally.
The Tektite Habitat was designed and built by General Electric Company
Space Division at the Valley Forge Space Technology Center in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania
. The Project Engineer who was responsible for the design of the habitat was Brooks Tenney, Jr. Brooks also served as the underwater Habitat Engineer on the International Mission, the last mission on the Tektite II project. The Program Manager for the Tektite I project at General Electric was Bren Thompson, and the Program Manager for the Tektite II project was Brooks Tenney, Jr. The Habitat appears as a pair of silos: Two white metal cylinders 4 m in diameter, 6 m high, joined by a flexible tunnel and seated on a rectangular base in 15 m of water.
The Tektite Project was led by Dr. Theodore Marton who worked for General Electric.
On February 15
, four U. S. Department of Interior scientists (Ed Clifton, Conrad Mahnken, Richard Waller and John VanDerwalker) descended to the ocean floor in Great Lameshur Bay
in the U. S. Virgin Islands
to begin an ambitious diving project dubbed "Tektite I". By March 18
, the four aquanauts had established a new world's record for saturated diving
by a single team. On April 15
, the aquanaut team returned to the surface with over 58 days of marine scientific studies. More than 19 hours of decompression
therapy were needed to accommodate the scientist's return to the surface. The United States Office of Naval Research
coordinated Tektite I.
Much of the research for Tektite I centered around humans in this new environment. Topics investigated would include: Biology (Blood changes, Sleep patterns, oxygen toxicity), Decompression and decompression sickness, Microbiology, and Mycology.
The United States Department of the Interior
coordinated Tektite II, with part of the funding coming from NASA
, which was interested in the psychological study of the scientific teams working in closed environments, similar to that of spacecraft.
The missions were carried out in 1970. Tektite II comprised ten missions lasting 10-20 days with four scientists and an engineer on each mission. One of these missions included the first all-female aquanaut team, led by Dr. Sylvia Earle Mead. Other scientists participating in the all-female mission included Dr. Renate True of Tulane, as well as Ann Hartline and Alina Szmant, graduate students at Scripps Institute of Oceanography. The fifth member of the crew was Margaret Ann Lucas, a Villanova engineering graduate, who served as Habitat Engineer. The Tektite II missions were the first to undertake in-depth ecological studies.
Medical and human research oversight for Tektite II was well documented in a series of reports covering a project overview, saturation diving, lessons learned from Tektite I, application to Tektite II, Medical responsibilities and psychological monitoring, medical supervision duties, medical and biological objectives, project logistics, lessons learned, excursions to deeper depths from storage pressure, Decompression tables, general medical observations, psychological observations, Blood changes , and general program conclusions.
There were nine studies on the ecology
of coral-reef fishes
carried out during the Tektite series:
A goal of the Tektite program was to prove that saturation diving
techniques in a underwater laboratory, breathing a nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere could be safely, efficiently, and at a minimal cost.
Dr. Lambertsen's "Predictive Studies Series", that started with TEKTITE I in 1969 and ended in 1997, researched many aspects of human physiology in extreme environments.