20000 Leagues Under the Lakes. From the Vassena’s Submersible to Space: 65 years of technology transfer in the design for Humans. (2013) Lake Como, IT

Sense and Sensibility in Underwater Life

Keynote: Sarah Jane Pell

Marking the sixty-fifth anniversary of the Pietro Vassena’s depth record for manned submersibles Prof. Malchiori Massali writes ‘Pioneering explorers and inventors like Vassena remind us that the ocean like the micro-gravity environment of space, is an inherently hostile place. To develop new models for motility and oceanic exploration, we learn that we cannot rely singularly on the development of new technologies to create such an arc, but we must also develop our capacity for imagination, and daring to design for true adaptation’ (Massali, 2013).

One strategy for such adaptation is aquabatics: an underwater performance practice based on an aqueous philosophy that presupposes the body is/of/as a body of water. This paper contributes new insights into aquabatics to derive novel methodologies for the design of future human-computer-interaction in diving and human-submersible technologies. As an adaptive strategy for human oceanic performance, aquabatics may also provide novel human factor considerations for designers, inventors and explorers working with vehicles and technologies supporting human life at depth with parallel implications for human spaceflight. Furthermore, this paper seeks to understand the implications for the performers; poets and explorers who will themselves test these methods to advance oceanic performance.

The aquatic domain like the micro-gravity environment of space has an important place in anthropolgy as it is a sensory-rich immersive environment that provides ripe conditions for new experience and presents unique interactive systems challenges for pilots, divers and explorers. It is prism of infinite refractions. As Brent Hartwig, Submersible Test Pilot/Designer of Hartwig Aquatech, Hawaii says “The transit through the surface is mind altering. Fluid space draws many of us to it, for a myriad of reasons. Humans will push through barriers as long as they can still think of new barriers to push through.” 25th June, 2013. "Great!" I reply in ernest simplicity. It is as if I were speaking to Vassena himself. "But why, I ask, are you drawn to it? Why do you push through? What is this transit you speak of? How is it mind altering? What have you experienced? What have you Felt? Seen? Heard? Recognised? Do I have to be a Navy S.E.A.L.? I am an artist, I want to know… Can only an explorer share this, or know this feeling? Everyone else imagines with poetic words. What is it "really" like, that we can never know? What inside knowledge do you share with other explorers?"... I became a commercial diving in 2002 to be able to answer these questions for myself. I was selected as Official Aquanaut Crew in early 2006. From 2008 – 2012, I spent approx 9 months a year, diving in the remote black-water Maquarie Harbour on the West Coast of Tasmania. It is a pristine World Heritage Wilderness Area. The terrain was very similar to Vassena’s Lake Como – only colder and darker..."

Pell, S.J. (date to be advised), ‘Sense and Sensibility of Underwater Life’, International Journal of Anthropology (Pontecorboli Editore, Firenze) 20000 Leagues Under the Lakes: From the Vassena’s Submersible to Space: Celebrating 65 years of technology transfer in the design for Humans. Editor Prof. Malchiori Masali. Accepted 1 Dec 2013. Unsure of publication status at 1 Dec 2016. ISSN 0393 - 9383

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