Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Remembering an Aquanaut: Dewey D. Smith

As we gear up for our next event, I can't help but to be reminded of a certain helmet in our permanent collection. Next week's program, "Space Exploration and the Aquarius Underwater Habitat" will be presented by a team of Aquanauts and talk about their latest mission with NASA.

NOAA Aquarius Reef Base, colloquially known as Aquarius, is an underwater laboratory located in 63 feet of water approximately 3 1/2 miles offshore of Key Largo in the Florida Keys and is often used by marine biologists studying the reefs. For the past 10 years, NASA has used the underwater habitat for its NEEMO missions to study the effects of extreme environments.

On May 5, 2009, NOAA, Aquarius, and the diving community lost a friend and true hero. Dewey D. Smith was a habitat technician for Aquarius who passed away at the age of 36 as a result of a diving accident. He had worked as a diver with Aquarius for two years and previously served in the US Navy as a Medical Corpsman for five years.

His passing truly left a huge void in the Aquarius family. In honor of Smith's life and legacy, the Aquarius Reef Base donated a Superlite 17 helmet to the Museum. The Superlite 17 is a modern helmet with a fiberglass shell and built-in demand regulator and is the helmet most frequently worn by the Aquanauts. Initially on special display in our Research Library, we are happy to announce that it is now on permanent display in our Commercial Diving exhibit (yellow helmet pictured below).

Every time the Aquanauts come to the Museum for a presentation, you can be sure to find each one paying a visit to the commercial diving exhibit where they remember their friend. We are proud to display this helmet and and honored to present it in memory of Dewey. He will surely be present in all of our thoughts on Wednesday.

Manager of Collections and Administration

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