Inspired by 2012’s record-setting space jump, Blacktip Island dive leader Marina DeLow will perform a giant stride scuba entry from the edge of space, splash down on an island dive site, then complete a recreational scuba dive this weekend.
“I grew up wanting to be an astronaut, and I love diving,” said DeLow, a divemaster at Eagle Ray Cove resort. “What better way to combine both passions? It’ll be the first time anyone’s gone from above the troposphere to below the troposphere with one step.
“We do giant strides from elevated piers all the time. This is really the same thing, just with more hang time.”
DeLow will splash down at Halyard Wall on Blacktip Island’s west coast, then do a 45-minute open-circuit dive before surfacing.
“The angle has to be just right,” said Dr. Azul Tang, head of DeLow’s jump support team. “She hits vertical, she’ll bottom out 260 feet down the wall; too oblique, she’ll skip across the water like a stone. She bounced four times and did a double-gainer in last week’s practice drop.
“Seventy-one point two degrees off vertical should put her at 53 feet of depth. That’s our goal.”
The European Space Agency (Agence spatiale européenne) has donated the balloon to lift DeLow 120,000 feet into the stratosphere. Eagle Ray Divers has donated a specially-modified dive boat for use as a gondola.
“The Guinness World Record folks said it won’t count as a giant stride unless it’s from a boat,” Eagle Ray Divers ops manager Ger Latner said, “so the Skipjack’ll be the first dive boat in space. We’ve about used up the island’s supply of 10-mil Visqueen and duct tape. And explosive bolts.”
Kevlar scuba fins will give DeLow additional maneuverability while airborne. The Kevlar will also resist burning up on entry.
Island dive operators plan to avoid the island’s west coast for the duration of DeLow’s jump window.
“We trust her aim and all,” Blacktip Haven resort owner Elena Havens said. “But if she hits our boat, well, we don’t have the staff for that kind of repair. Or clean up.”
DeLow isn’t worried.
“I’ve already written up lesson plans for a new specialty course,” she said. “NAUI, PADI and SSI instructors will also be able to incorporate it into their existing Altitude Diving courses.”
Eagle Ray Divers’ Latner is optimistic as well.
“If she survives, and the insurance company gives us the OK, we’ll make space diving one of our regular dive offerings,” he said.