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How A Rural Appalachian Doctor Pioneered Deep-Sea Diving

A new documentary film on PBS shares the forgotten story of a U.S Navy project that revolutionized deep-sea diving. The Sealab program aimed to create a future where humans could live on the bottom of the ocean. North Carolinian Dr. George Bond pioneered the program. 

He was a rural doctor from Appalachia who fell in love with diving during his time in the Navy. He started experiments with animals and then humans, and tested their capacity to dive deeper and stay underwater longer than ever before.

His work led to the experimental Sealab program, where divers known as “aquanauts” would spend days or even weeks on the ocean floor. The program was quietly ended after a deadly tragedy.

Host Frank Stasio talks with Ben Hellwarth about Dr. Bond and the Sealab program. Hellwarth authored the book “Sealab: America’s Forgotten Quest to Live and Work on the Ocean Floor” (Simon and Schuster/2012). The documentary “Sealab” premieres on American Experience on Tuesday, Feb. 12 at 9 p.m.

Amanda Magnus is the executive producer of Embodied, a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships and health. She has also worked on other WUNC shows including Tested and CREEP.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.