St. John Beach Guide

The Tektite Project

The Tektite Project was conducted in 1969 in a cooperative effort by the U.S. Department of the interior, the U.S. Navy, The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and General Electric. The purpose of the study was to investigate the effects on human beings of living and working underwater for prolonged periods of time.

The name of the project, Tektite, comes from a glassy meteorite that can be found on the sea bottom.

An underwater habitat, which was built by the General Electric Corporation and originally designed to be the model for the orbiting skylab, was placed on concrete footings fifty feet below the surface of Beehive Cove. It consisted of two eighteen-foot high towers joined together by a passageway.

Inside the towers were four circular rooms twelve feet in diameter. There was also a room, which served as a galley and a bunkhouse, a laboratory, and an engine room. The habitat was equipped with a hot shower, a fully equipped kitchen, blue window curtains, a radio and a television. A room on the lowest level called the wet room was where the divers could enter and leave the habitat through a hatch in the floor that always stayed open.

The four aquanauts, Ed Clifton, Conrad Mahnken, Richard Waller and John VanDerwalker, who took part in the first Tektite project lived under constant surveillance by cameras and microphones and often slept monitored by electroencephalograms (EEG) and electrocardiograms EKG to monitor their heart rates, brain waves and sleep patterns. The project lasted for fifty-eight days and the men set a world record for time spent underwater, breaking the old record of thirty days held by astronaut Scott Carpenter in the Sea lab II habitat.

See St. John Times Tektite Article