AT chats with 29-year-old Adventurer of the Year Lloyd Godson after he spent 12 days living underwater.
Chatting with Bio Submariner Man!
29-year-old Albury lad Lloyd Godson was named Adventurer of the Year after he spent 12 days living underwater. Surely there are easier ways . . .
What do you feel is the End Game of these kinds of experiments? Vast populations living under the sea? Or is this more to simulate the self-sufficient living conditions required in deep space?
I’m currently involved with the Atlantica Expeditions (www.underseacolonies.com), which is all about the building of an undersea colony – a human undersea city – a permanent dwelling place for people and even families. My good friend and fellow Aquanaut Dennis Chamberland is the man behind this project. Colonisation of the oceans is one of the last frontiers that remain on Earth. If intelligently managed, the creation of undersea colonies could be among the greatest achievements of the 21st Century.
There are a lot of similarities between living underwater and deep space travel, and I think future expeditions to both will place more of an emphasis on plant-based life support systems. I utilised a hybrid life support system underwater (algae and compressed air), and the Atlantica Expeditions will do the same. The BioSUB was the first step towards self-sufficiency underwater and hopefully the catalyst for future experiments in this very exciting field of science.
What made you want to be involved in the project in the first place?
I entered the idea into the Australian Geographic “Live Your Dream” Wildest Adventure Competition, but never expected to actually win the $50,000. When I did I thought, “Oh, shit. Now I have to actually pull this project off somehow!” I love a challenge and wanted to try living underwater for a long time. This was the best chance I was going to get. To start with, I travelled to Orlando, Florida to learn from the best at a NASA-sponsored conference called Habitation. I felt so out of place, but everyone there seemed very supportive of this 29-year-old Albury boy trying to achieve this impossible dream on a budget of 50 grand. This is where I met the project psychologist, Professor Nancy Rader from Ithaca College New York State. I also met Aquanauts Dennis and Claudia Chamberland there and they were both extremely encouraging of my efforts (which is a good thing, considering they might be my underwater neighbours one day).
You spent 12 days in the BioSub. Do you think you could have gone for longer? How MUCH longer?
I actually extended the length of the project from ten days out to 13 because I felt I needed more time to enjoy my time underwater. But on day 12 I woke up feeling pretty cruddy and decided it wouldn’t be worth the risk to spend the last night underwater. The reason was most likely the high levels of carbon dioxide I endured over an extended period. As I had a 24hr support crew, it was also a bit unfair on them to extend it out any longer. Dennis’ expedition will last for 80 days all going well and will be a lot more comfortable and sophisticated than the BioSUB. I had a camping stretcher, 100 percent humidity and a portable toilet. Dennis will have a stateroom! My partner Carolina has also been invited to spend some time in Dennis’ habitat in 2009, and she seems a lot more willing to spend time in his habitat than she did in mine!
Do you think 12 days was enough to answer the big “can you live underwater” question?
I was convinced in my mind after the 12 days that I could live underwater, with a few improvements, of course. I often thought of having something like the BioSUB for a weekender! The idea of Dennis undersea colony isn’t to remove yourself entirely from land, as that would be unrealistic. Rather, the idea is that the undersea colony would be your permanent residence. The inhabitants would commute to their job on land by day and return to their undersea home by night.
Two part question: Did you have any windows? And, if not, would it’ve killed you to put in some windows?
I didn’t have any windows on my walls or roof, but I did have a clear manhole in my floor, which allowed a generous amount of natural light to filter up through the water column and into my habitat. I often had turtles and fish coming up to see what all the fuss was about. I even named one of the turtles: Elizabeth. She was coming to check on me every day and occasionally at night too. I’d often hear her shell knocking at my door!
It wouldn’t have killed me [to put in some windows], but I was worried about leaks around the windows. I kinda ran out of money and time to add them in, but it would be the first change I made if I did it again.
What mental and physical prep did you have to do to live underwater for 12 days?
I didn’t know how to prepare for this adventure. I was asked a lot what I was doing and the truthful answer was: Nothing! I don’t know why, but I just knew I’d be okay with it. I think it was because I spent so much time working on it and thinking about it (including in my sleep). I did my commercial diver training in the same lake ten years earlier, so I knew the location well. The dive school in Albury is also one of the finest in the country so I was in good hands. But later on I started training for a marathon thinking that this would be good mental and physical training. I’m running my first one in Athens on November 4!
What advice would you give to any readers wishing to live underwater?
Well, it’s a great way to test your relationship! Be sure to include windows, a few separate rooms, several rolls of duct tape for leaks and a dehumidifier.
How long did you have to spend on the pedal powered generator each day?
I usually pedalled for two hours a day. But it was a balance between getting some exercise, charging my laptop batteries and not producing too much CO2. I also had 16 solar panels on the surface providing me with a 12v power supply underwater.
Did you take your iPod? If so, what are the best BioSub tunes to get you through the days?
I don’t own an iPod, but I did have a laptop with music. I’d have to say the BioSong was the best tune for getting me through the days. Take a listen on the BioSUB website (www.biosub.com.au). It was written just for the project and includes a face-slapping solo by yours truly.
Did you find yourself talking to the algae after a while? Or, like, right from the start?
I chose the steaming hot salmon steaks and sticky date pudding delivered to me by the volunteer divers for some strange reason. As good as algae is for you, I’ll be using tomatoes in the next habitat for sure. Even Brussel sprouts would be better!