University of Arizona professor’s underwater tent invention makes big splash on Shark Week

KOLD News 10-10:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 10:18 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - This is not your normal camping trip.

University of Arizona Professor Winslow Burleson and professional diver Michael Lombardi invented a portable, inflatable tent that can be used underwater.

They dubbed it the Ocean Space Habitat.

“I had this idea that if you were to go to the Great Barrier Reef that instead of coming up every day, you might be able to go through a series of tents and spend three or four days underwater,” Burleson said.

Burleson said he has always loved the water.

“I was swimming before I could walk,” Burleson said.

Burleson said the Ocean Space Habitat gives divers a portable respite for decompression. It also gives them a place to remove their equipment, examine specimens, sleep or even have a cup of tea, which Burleson said he did when he tested out the tent off the coast of Rhode Island.

Discovery featured the high tech habitat in an episode called, “The Great Hammerhead Stakeout,” which aired during Shark Week.

The episode that debuted on Shark Week follows a shark scientist and ex-special forces diver as they use the habitat to investigate reports of huge hammerheads moving in near a remote island in the Bahamas.

The Ocean Space Habitat can be set up in remote locations, using anchor screws to hold it in place.

“What is unique about the tent in Shark Week is that we have the integrated re-breather technology that is scrubbing the Co2 out of the air and adding a small amount of oxygen back into the air, so it can support the two individuals for the ten hours they are underwater,” Burleson said.

Burleson said they have more plans for the habitat.

“We hope to have many different formats for the tent ranging from a backpack tent to something that is a major station underwater,” Burleson said.

Burleson said the habitat and anchoring system is portable enough for divers to travel with in their checked luggage.

“The beauty of the habitat is that it can be used for so many different things. It can be used for deeper dives, or shallower dives, very long dives, and we believe it will open up the world of underwater exploration in a way that is the next generation of living and working in the sea,” Burleson said.

As Burleson works to expand this project, he is also working on something else at the University of Arizona.

He hopes to create an underwater hockey club and he’s recruiting players.

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