DURHAM, N.C.--Three "divers" emerged April 2 from a record 27-day simulated dive to a depth of 2132 feet below sea-level--all in a cramped chamber, not underwater, in the Duke University medical center.
Doctors pumped mixtures of helium, nitrogen, and oxygen into the chamber to simulate various ocean depths. The dive originally had been planned for only 1500 feet but after a successful air misture was found using helium, to replace nitrogen, the divers and doctors agreed to try to surpass the previous depth record of 2001 feet, set in 1972 by a French diving team.
The divers performed a number of experiments during the dive, including tests of breathing, manual dexterity and mental functioning. The only problems the divers reported were slight difficulties breathing and a mild case of the bends while surfacing.
The three divers, Bud, Shelton, a physician's assistant at Duke, William Bell, a fourth-year medical student, and Stephen Porter, a commercial diver from Houston received hundreds of letters and telegrams congratulating them on their achievement.