St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands (PRWEB) March 29, 2014 -- Forty five years ago this spring a small group of scientists and researchers – dubbed aquanauts – took up extended residence in a unique underwater habitat just off the south shore of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Their historic research in 1969 was called Project Tektite. Sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Navy, the effort was far from a typical Caribbean diving vacation. It focused on the impact living for extended periods in close proximity had on humans (presaging future space missions) and the challenges and advantages of conducting underwater research while breathing a mixed-gas atmosphere.
Now the Virgin Islands Environmental Resources Station (VIERS), which operates the former Tektite site for the University of the Virgin Islands, will mark the 45th anniversary of Project Tektite I, with an anniversary celebration at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 29. The day’s activities will be hosted by the St. John Historical Society and Clean Islands International, which manages VIERS.
The celebration will feature a short historic film about Tektite I, donated by Tektite Program Manager James Miller. A panel of original Tektite aquanauts will also be present. The four – John VanDerwalker, Ed Clifton, Ian Koblick and Gary Davis – will share recollections about their roles in this historic scientific project. “These events open up the past in a way that the written word just cannot capture,” said Randy Brown who is executive director of Clean Islands International.
Public tours of the Tektite Underwater Habitat Museum at VIERS will also be offered. Recent museum additions include updated artifact displays, a miniature model of the interior of the underwater habitat, and life-size replicas of the habitat’s control room and living quarters.
Museum visitors have been on the increase each year since its founding in 2006. “We are pleased to share with all our guests and visitors as much information as possible on the importance of Project Tektite in the history of sea and space exploration and its relationship to what has been going on here at VIERS in the past and today,” said Brown, who initiated the museum and serves as its current curator.
“The museum’s collections are ever growing,” Brown said. “Donations of photographs, slides, films, home movies, newspaper clippings, and other Tektite related objects are appreciated.”
Events like this anniversary celebration “open up the past in a way that the written word just cannot capture,” said Brown. “It is always interesting to meet someone who has a connection to Project Tektite and hear stories about what really went on back then.” VIERS’ cabins, which served as the base camp for Project Tektite, are now used to support UVI’s research facility within the Virgin Islands National Park. Tours of UVI’s environmental education facility at VIERS will also be offered.
Persons planning to attend the anniversary celebration are asked to RSVP with VIERS Manager Tony Blackwell by calling (340) 776-6721 or sending e-mail to tony(at)viers(dot)org. For details contact Randy Brown via e-mail at randybrown(at)islands(dot)org or call (410) 647-2500.
Nanyamka Farrelly, University Of The Virgin Islands, +1340 6931058, [email protected]