Rare, behind the scenes look at research being done at Groton SUBASE to keep undersea warriors safe

New London

GROTON, Conn. (WTNH) — At the Submarine Force Library and Museum in Groton, they have two displays celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory. This gives visitors some insight into the research going on at the SUBASE to try to keep these undersea warriors safe.

There is a lot of high tech research happening at the submarine base in Groton.

“The blue light would shine down over their eyes,” said Lt. Cdr Joseph Decicco who demonstrated blue light glasses which could be worn by submariners on a 24-hour shift. “That would mimic ‘it’s daytime now.’”

The research going on at the Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory is meant to help keep navy divers and submariners safe. News 8 was given a very rare tour of the facility Monday.

The research looks at physiological and psychological effects of several factors.

“I think they do make me feel more awake,” said Lt. Cdr Decicco of the blue light glasses.

Another demonstration showcasing the facility showed the power of an underwater airgun. Researchers have a high-tech dummy called Quint to figure out how a nearby diver could be affected.

“He’s got lungs, he’s got intestines, and other organs in there that we can use to try to predict what would happen if the diver were exposed to the loud underwater sounds,” explained Dr. Brandon Casper, a Research Physiologist and the Department Head of Warfighter Performance.

Another test was done in the anechoic chamber which removes all background noise.

“Our primary focus is is to prevent noise-induced hearing loss,” said Research Audiologist Dr. Stephanie Karch.

The hyperbaric chamber was developed at the submarine base and tested back in 1963.

“It simulates a pressurized environment,” said Louis Deflice, Department Head of Diving Research. 

It takes one day of decompression for every 100 feet and some of the dives are pretty deep. A 500-foot dive could take up to six days of decompression.

But what do you do if the diver needs to get the surface sooner? That’s something else they test for in the hyperbaric chamber.

“We can have them pre-breath the oxygen to flush out some nitrogen and some other gases that can cause the bends,” said Deflice.

New technologies are also being tested. A special underwater tablet records data from a diver on an underwater bicycle.

“With fatiguing exercise you see certain mental effects,” said Research Psychologist Dr. Justin Handy.

Controlled environments to prepare for what may be out of their control. The indoor diving test pool can be cooled to 40 degrees or heated to more than 104 degrees.

“Science doesn’t get done in the comfort zone,” said Deflice.

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