American Experience: Sealab Premieres Feb. 12

February 11, 2019 Ian Lewitz Leave a Comment

Explore the depths of the ocean in an all new American Experience: Sealab premiering 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 12 on Wisconsin Public Television.

Sealab tells the story of the U.S. Navy’s program that sought to answer the question of whether human life could survive on the ocean floor. The program, spearheaded by George Bond, a former doctor from Appalachia turned naval pioneer, as well as his team of “aquanauts,” tested the limits of human endurance and changed ocean exploration forever.

Read on to find out more about this incredible story!

Established in 1963, the Sealab program worked to push the limits of human life underwater. Sealab I, a pressurized underwater habitat, set out to prove humans could live and work underwater for days, even months, at a time. Manned by five aquanauts, including Scott Carpenter (a former astronaut, famous for having been the second American to orbit the earth), the vessel spent ten days on the ocean floor before safely emerging.

Sealab aquanauts along with program leader George Bond (far right).

Sealab II pushed the limits of human endurance even further. In 1965, three teams of aquanauts spent 15 days on the ocean floor setting up weather stations, testing electrically heated wetsuits and attempting to salvage the sunken fuselage of a fighter jet. When Sealab II resurfaced, it had been continuously staffed for 45 days, with Carpenter spending a record 30 days underwater.

Episode Preview

Unfortunately, Sealab III, launched in February of 1969, experienced immediate problems after its launch off the coast of San Clemente, Calif., which  resulted in the death of aquanaut Berry Cannon. Subsequently, the Sealab program was suspended and later terminated in 1970.

“Although the Sealab program has been largely forgotten, its findings were invaluable, proving that humans could actually live and work successfully for long periods of time at the bottom of the sea,” said American Experience executive producer Mark Samels. “Making this film, with the on-screen participation of several of the aquanauts who were instrumental to the program, will hopefully help restore Sealab to its rightful place in the history of America’s legacy of exploration.”

Tune in Tuesday, Feb 12 at 8 p.m. or watch online at, to learn even more about Sealab’s incredible journey into the unknown.

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