DR. ANDREAS B. RECHNITZER (CAPT. USNR RET.)  

By
Edward C. Cargile
(copyrighted © 2005)
 

Andy Rechnitzer, Ph.D. was one of the true pioneers of diving and ocean science. He gave over 55 years of dedicated service to undersea vehicles, diving, ocean technology and ocean sciences.

Andreas B. Rechnitzer was born on November 30, 1924, in the small farming community of Escondido, California (northeast of San Diego). He grew up in Escondido, exploring all the natural areas, especially the waterways. Rechnitzer even ventured to the ocean some 20 miles to the west in Oceanside, California.
Andy Rechnitzer began diving in 1942 as a free diver, mostly in La Jolla near San Diego and in Mexico to the south.

While in college during World War II, Rechnitzer graduated from the U.S. Navy Midshipmen School at Fort Schuyler, NY, in 1945. He was commissioned as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy Reserve.
Rechnitzer received a B.S. Degree from Michigan State in 1947 and a M.S. Degree from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1951.

His scuba diving career started while he was in college at UCLA in 1949, with his good friend, Connie Limbaugh. They transferred to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 1951.

While doctorate candidates at Scripps, Rechnitzer and Limbaugh pioneered the use of scuba diving in ocean science. In 1951 Rechnitzer co-authored with Limbaugh the first civilian scuba training curriculum and safety rules, titled Diving Training and Field Procedures Syllabus. This was the very first scientific diving manual, which was later used as the basis for training diving instructors for the huge sport diving community.

The diving safety program and scientific diving Photo by techniques developed by Rechnitzer, Limbaugh and others Ed Cargile were expanded, with some help from the U.S. Navy. Cdr. Doug Fane was Commanding Officer of the Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT) in Coronado, just across the bay from San Diego. Cdr. Fane provided his knowledge and expertise in diving, along with a wide array of equipment and support boats to the Scripps scientific divers.

When the Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation Department recognized that sport diving was growing in their area, they set up a special Underwater Unit. Al Tillman (a Manager in the Los Angeles Parks and Recreation Department) and Bev Morgan (a lifeguard for Los Angeles County) came to Scripps for guidance. Rechnitzer, Limbaugh and others trained them in the safe use of scuba and other aspects of diving.
In 1954, Los Angeles County provided the first sport diving training course for Diving Instructors in the United States. Rechnitzer was part of that training program from the beginning. All of the other sport diver training programs in the U.S. came from the Los Angeles County Diving Instructor Program … which came from Scripps … which was helped by the U.S. Navy UDT.

While a doctorate student at Scripps from 1951-1956, Rechnitzer was also a Research Staff Member.
Rechnitzer and Limbaugh led the way in developing all types of diving techniques to conduct their scientific diving projects. Others that were in this select pioneering group were Willard Bascom (expert in marine geology and water movement), Jim Stewart (later to become Scripps Diving Officer for over 30 years), Wheeler North (expert in kelp), Ken Norris (specialized in dolphins and marine mammals) and Dr. Hugh Bradner (developer of the wet suit).

Rechnitzer was involved in many research projects that took him diving all along the Southern California coast, and down into Mexico on the Pacific and Sea of Cortez sides of Baja California. Rechnitzer and Limbaugh were close diving partners.

Members of the Scripps staff that guided Rechnitzer included Carl Hubbs, Roger Revelle and Walter Munk. Dr. Hubbs was especially helpful to Rechnitzer and guided him through the scientific process, in written and verbal presentations, and several other areas.

Andy Rechnitzer earned his Doctorate Degree from Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 1956, specializing in Ichthyology, the study of fishes.

After receiving his doctorate at Scripps, Dr. Rechnitzer joined the Naval Electronics Laboratory (NEL) (which became the Naval Ocean Systems Center) in San Diego. He was the Deep Submergence Research Program Coordinator and Oceanographer.

While at NEL, Dr. Rechnitzer recognized the tremendous research potential of the bathyscaph Trieste. The Trieste was built in Italy by Swiss Professor Auguste Piccard and his son, Jacques Piccard. The Office of Naval Research put together a rather distinguished team of specialists to travel to Italy to evaluate the Trieste. Dr. Rechnitzer was one of those marine scientists. He studied the theory, engineering and maintenance procedures of Trieste. Dr. Rechnitzer and other U.S. scientists made several deep dives in the Trieste in the Mediterranean Sea. He saw the many advantages of scientists and engineers diving in the bathyscaph to further their individual research specialties.

Dr. Rechnitzer was instrumental in proposing that the U.S. Navy buy the Trieste. The Office of Naval Research (ONR) agreed and bought the bathyscaph for $250,000. The Office of Naval Research assigned the Trieste to NEL for operations.

ONR appointed Dr. Rechnitzer to be Technical Director and Scientist-in-Charge of Trieste in 1958. The Navy immediately established Project Nekton to modify Trieste and make a series of deeper dives in Trieste. Led by Dr. Rechnitzer’s vision, the Project Nekton Team conducted a wide range of ocean science studies that were of strong interest to the U.S. Navy. There were many questions to be answered about what happens deep under the ocean and how that affects submarines and surface ships.

Dr. Rechnitzer assembled a very dynamic, progressive small team of 16 specialists. These were unique individuals, because they all had two or three specialties and they worked very well together as a team. The Project Nekton Team included Lt. Don Walsh (Officer-in-Charge and Pilot), Lt. Larry Shumaker (Assistant Officer-in-Charge, Pilot and Chief Engineer) and Master Chief John Michel (Crew Chief). Jacques Piccard, the son of the inventor, was hired as Technical Advisor on Trieste.

Following a series of dives off San Diego, the Trieste was modified and shipped to Guam for even deeper dives.

As head of the Trieste Team, Dr. Rechnitzer made many dives in the Trieste, down to depths of 18,150 feet (a world record dive at the time).

Dr. Rechnitzer was the Scientist-In-Charge and Technical Director when the Trieste made her historic world record dive to 35,800 feet off Guam on January 23, 1960. The water pressure was 15,931 pounds per square inch. We have a little less that 15 psi on the surface of the ocean.

Pilot of the Trieste on this deep dive was Lt. Don Walsh (later Capt. and Ph.D.). Jacques Piccard was the Technical Advisor aboard the Trieste during the deep dive to the bottom of the Marianas Trench. Lt. Larry Shumaker was topside, providing engineering services and acting as Operations Officer for the dive. Master Chief John Michel did some ingenious last minute engineering and machine work to make Trieste ready for the deepest dive.

The entire Project Nekton budget was a little less than $250,000. That meant that the purchase and operations of Trieste through the deep dive was done on a modest combined budget of $500,000.

For their contributions to the advancement of deep ocean research, Dr. Rechnitzer, Jacques Piccard, Lt. Walsh and Lt. Shumaker were honored personally by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in a White House ceremony. Dr. Rechnitzer was recognized by President Eisenhower for his leadership as Technical Director and Scientist-in-Charge of Project Nekton. President Eisenhower presented Dr. Rechnitzer with the Distinguished Civilian Service Award.

Tragically, Connie Limbaugh was killed in a cave diving accident in France in 1960. This strongly affected many people, especially Dr. Rechnitzer. Limbaugh was one of the safest divers in the world. Even though Dr. Rechnitzer was not with Limbaugh when the accident occurred, he vowed to continue the diving safety work that the two pioneers had started. Over the next 45+ years, Dr. Rechnitzer kept that pledge.

Dr. Rechnitzer was one of the founders and President of Scientific Diving Consultants of San Diego, CA. The company was made up of personnel from Scripps Institution of Oceanography and local divers. This company provided surface and underwater oceanographic services for the City of San Diego, the power plant and sewage treatment outfalls, and many other offshore installations. Members of Scientific Divers included Dr. Andreas B. Rechnitzer, Connie Limbaugh, Dr. Wheeler North, Jim Stewart, Earl Murray, Emil Habeker, Arold Scotten, Chuck Flemming, Ron Church and Chuck Nicklin.

As an outgrowth of Scientific Diving Consultants, it was recognized that there was a large need for a retail store that would support their diving requirements. So a group of divers got together to launch The Diving Locker. It was named after the very small, cramped facility at Scripps used for diving equipment storage. The group was made up of Dr. Andreas B. Rechnitzer, Chuck Nicklin and others. Wheeler North, Emil Habeker and Jim Stewart provided evening diving instructions at the Diving Locker. Bev Morgan began as the store General Manager. Then Chuck Nicklin took over as General Manager and eventually bought out all of the partners. Nicklin later expanded the operations of the Diving Locker to include four scuba retail and training facilities in the San Diego area.

From their first Instructor Training Program in 1954, Dr. Rechnitzer shared his knowledge of diving practices to the Los Angeles County Underwater Instructors Program.

Dr. Rechnitzer also provided valuable support and expertise to the newly formed National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI). When the first NAUI Instructor Certification Program was held in Houston, Texas in 1960, Dr. Rechnitzer lectured on several aspects of diving and marine sciences. Dr. Rechnitzer also received NAUI Instructor #57. He served as a member of the NAUI Board of Advisors from 1960-2000.

Dr. Rechnitzer was Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Gyrotor of San Diego (1960-1963).
In 1963, Dr. Rechnitzer became Director of Ocean Sciences at the Ocean Systems Operations Division of North American Aviation (which evolved into Rockwell International). The new group of ocean scientists, engineers and technicians was initially based at the Autonetics Division in Anaheim and then the Space Division in Compton. Finally the Ocean Systems Operations Division got their own facility in Long Beach, California.

Some of the individuals working for Dr. Rechnitzer in Ocean Sciences were Dr. Richard Terry, Robert Ballard and Tony Christianson (who later earned their doctorates), and Ed Cargile.

Dr. Rechnitzer was one of the primary forces in organizing an ocean research program and development of a series of deep submersibles at Rockwell International. This included design and construction of the undersea research submarine Beaver IV. The deep submersible was named after the hard worker and highly efficient animal, the beaver. Nancy Reagan christened Beaver IV in September 1968.

The deep submersible could dive to 2,000 feet and had a diver lockout capability to 1,000 feet, for work in the deep ocean. The lockout divers (or aquanauts) breathed helium and oxygen through their mixed-gas diving equipment. The divers could transfer to deck decompression chambers for decompression.

The Beaver IV could mate with an ocean-floor oil completion system developed for Mobil Oil down to 2,000 feet. Beaver IV was also a prototype for the U.S. Navy’s Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle (DSRV), which Rockwell bid on. Many of the principles proven by Beaver IV were incorporated into the Navy Advanced SEAL Delivery System (ASDS), which takes up to 16 fully equipped SEALs into enemy territory for sub-lockout.
Ed Cargile was Pilot, Lockout Diver and Diving Officer on Beaver IV, and he worked for Dr. Rechnitzer. Cargile was later a Project Engineer and Program Manager of several ocean equipment development projects at Rockwell International for Dr. Rechnitzer.

Dr. Rechnitzer was heavily involved at Rockwell International on several other ocean equipment development systems, such as the Shallow Water Habitat System, High Speed Torpedo System and other underwater projects.

During his time at Rockwell International, Dr. Rechnitzer was active in several other groups: Member of the State of California Advisory Commission on Marine and Coastal Resources (1967 and 1969); President of the Marine Studies Institute at Dana Point (1969-1970); and others.

After leaving Rockwell in 1970, Dr. Rechnitzer was with the federal government for 15 years in Washington, DC. He was the Senior Civilian Science and Technology Advisor to four successive Oceanographers of the Navy. Some of the positions Dr. Rechnitzer held with the U.S. Navy included: Science and Technology Advisor, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Deep Submergence Systems Division (1970-1973); Head, International and Interagency Affairs Branch, Office of the Oceanographer of the Navy (1974-1978); and Professor (Adjunct) at the Naval Postgraduate School (1977).

In 1974, Dr. Rechnitzer served as the U.S. Navy Maritime History Representative for a joint expedition (U.S. Navy/National Geographic Society/Duke University) to validate the discovery and location of the Civil War ironclad U.S.S. Monitor. In March 1862, the U.S.S. Monitor and the C.S.S. Virginia had a major shooting battle off Hampton Roads, VA. This was first conflicts of ironclad warships, which ended in a draw. The Confederate C.S.S. Virginia was built from the burnt hull of the Union U.S.S. Merrimac. When the U.S.S. Monitor was later being towed at sea on December 31, 1862, she sank off Cape Hatteras. The 1974 Monitor Validation Expedition was using the research vessel Alcoa Seaprobe.
Dr. Rechnitzer was the Science and Technology Advisor in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Naval Oceanography Division (1978-1984).

In 1980, Dr. Rechnitzer organized the Trieste 20th Anniversary Deep Dive Celebration in Washington, D.C. He participated in the Trieste 25th Anniversary Deep Dive Celebration in Lucerne, Switzerland (where Jacques Piccard lived). Dr. Rechnitzer organized the Trieste 25th Anniversary Deep Dive Celebration in San Diego, California, in 1985.

On a leave of absence from the federal government, Dr. Rechnitzer was Manager of the Ocean Science Laboratories (Environmental Sciences and Deep Sea Mining) at Lockheed Missiles and Space Company (1982).

Dr. Rechnitzer was Leader of several CEDAM International expeditions, including the discovery of the 1847 wreck of the English Royal Mail Steam Packet Company sail/sidewheeler ship Tweed on Scorpion Reef, off Yucatan, Mexico. During 1968, he also led a CEDAM International expedition on the 1823 English merchantman Holiday on Scorpion Reef. In 1970, Dr. Rechnitzer participated in the scientific excavations of several sacrificial water wells (cenotes) of Chincultic in the Montebello Lakes region of Chiapas State, Mexico. During 1974-1975, Dr. Rechnitzer conducted underwater maritime history and Mayan archaeological studies at several sites in Quintana Roo State, Mexico. He was a frequent contributor to the CEDAM International Bulletin from 1968 through 1977.

Dr. Rechnitzer was Coordinator of Polar Affairs at the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. He visited both the Arctic and Antarctic. In 1975, Dr. Rechnitzer conducted exploration scuba dives under seven feet of ice covering the Ross Sea at the Antarctic.

He was Chairman of the MTS/IEEE Conference and Exhibition, Technical Program Subcommittee (1978-1979). Also, he was Vice Chairman of the MTS/IEEE ’84 Conference and Exhibition.

During his 31 years in the U.S. Navy Reserves, Dr. Rechnitzer served in the Pacific Theater on two PCE class vessels during World War II. He was Commanding Officer of Naval Research Reserve Company 11-5 in San Diego, CA (1959-1960). From 1962-1966 he was an Instructor at the Naval Reserve Officers School in Los Alamitos, CA. He became the Director of Naval Management Curriculum at the Naval Research Reserve Officers School in Los Alamitos, CA. He was in the Active Reserves until his retirement in 1986 from the U.S. Navy with the rank of Captain.

He was a prolific author, contributing greatly to the advancement of diving, deep submersibles and ocean sciences. His writing included scientific papers, reports, magazine articles and contributions to several books.
Dr. Rechnitzer was a Scientific Participant on the 1986 Beebe Project off Bermuda. During this ocean research operation, a manned submersible was used for the first time to study the behavior of the six-gill shark at depths greater than 2,000 feet. The results of this expedition were reported in the November 1986 issue of National Geographic Magazine.

He was the Operations Manager on the 1987 Beebe Project off Bermuda. Dr. Rechnitzer worked with Emory Kristoff, Dr. Eugenie Clark and others studying the six-gill shark off Bermuda down to depths of 6,439 feet, using the deep submersible Pisces VI. The results of this expedition were featured on television and published in the December 1988 issue of National Geographic Magazine.

During 1988, Dr. Rechnitzer participated in an expedition to the Monterey Canyon, which was reported in the February 1990 issue of National Geographic Magazine.

In 1990 Dr. Rechnitzer was a member of the U.S. research team that traveled to Lake Biakal in the U.S.S.R. The lake is the oldest in the world, more than 20 million years old. It is also the world’s largest lake, being 650 miles long and 5,380 feet deep.

He helped organize underwater film festivals, such as the International Underwater Film Festival in Santa Monica, CA, and the Underwater Film Festival in San Diego, CA.

Dr. Rechnitzer was active in several aspects of television and cinema production, including: Performer, The Deep Dive, CBS TV Special (1959); Technical Director, The Treasure of Scorpion Reef (1968); Technical Director and Cinematographer, The Coral Archives of Alacran Reef for CEDAM International (1969), Award Winner of the Fourth International Underwater Film Festival, Santa Monica (1970); Executive Director, Five Fathoms to a Ship’s Grave for CEDAM International (1970), Award Winner at the Fifth International Underwater Film Festival, Santa Monica (1971); Technical Advisor, The Aquarians, NBC TV Special for Ivan Tors Productions (1971); Technical Advisor, Return to the Sea for the U.S. Navy (1975); Technical Advisor, Bioluminescence: Light in the Sea, for the U.S. Navy (1976); Technical Advisor, Robots in the Sea for the U.S. Navy (1978); and Co-Producer (with Ed Cargile) of The Deepest Dive (about the bathyscaph Trieste) for The History Channel (2000).

During his career, Dr. Rechnitzer wrote more than 50 published scientific and technical papers in science, engineering, education and diving.

He is featured in several books: Seven Miles Down, by Jacques Piccard and Robert Dietz (Putman, New York, 1962); Conquest, by David Alman (Double Day, 1963); Men Against the Sea, by Ross Olney (Grossett and Dunlap, Inc., 1969); The Trieste, by Dick Snyder (Golden Gate Junior Books, 1962); Pioneers In Diving, by Edward C. Cargile (Multimedia Dynamics, 2002).

A biography by Edward C. Cargile is being finished about Dr. Rechnitzer, titled The Diving Scientist. The book should be published in late 2005.

Dr. Rechnitzer’s professional positions also included: Research Associate at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, CA; Senior Scientist at Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) in La Jolla, CA; Professor (Adjunct) at San Diego State University in San Diego, CA; President of Ocean Centers International in El Cajon, CA; and President of Viking Oceanographics in El Cajon, CA.

His professional affiliations included: President-Adjoint (with Jacques-Yves Cousteau), World Underwater Federation (CMAS) (1961-67); President of SMAs Scientific Committee (1966-67); Member of the NAUI Advisory Board (1960-2000); Member of the Board of Directors, International Underwater Contractors (1988-2004); Member, CEDAM International Advisory Committee to select the Seven Underwater Wonders of the World (1989); Member of the CEDAM International Advisors; President and Life Member of CEDAM International; Life Member of CEDAM Mexico; Member of the American Oceanic Organization; Member of the Explorers Club; Member of the Cosmos Club of Washington, DC; Member of the Congressional Underwater Explorers Club in Washington, DC; Member of the Navy League in Washington, DC; Member and Fellow of the Marine Technology Society; Member of the Association of Diving Contractors International; Cultural Enrichment Lecturer for the Royal Viking Line (1975 to 2004), Crystal Cruise Line, Seabourn Line, and Fred Olsen Line; Member of the Deep Submersible Pilots Association; Member of the Association of Diving Contractors; Member of the Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences; and Member of the Historical Diving Society USA (member of the Board of Advisors).

For his long, pioneering contributions to diving and ocean sciences, Dr. Rechnitzer received many awards and honors: The Distinguished Civilian Service Award presented by President Eisenhower for his scientific leadership and deep dives in the Trieste (1960); the first recipient of the Richard Hooper Day Award, presented by the Philadelphia Academy of Sciences (1960); Special Commendation from the Guam Legislature, in recognition of leadership of Project Nekton (1960); Honorary Citizen, City of San Diego (1960); Honorary Life Membership, National Geographic Society (1960); Honorary Life Membership, Propeller Club of America (1960); Commissioned Honorary Admiral, Texas Navy, by authority of Price Daniel, Governor, State of Texas (1960); Outstanding Man of the Year Award, San Dieguito Chamber of Commerce (1960 and 1961); Honored Photographer at the International Underwater Film Festival (1961); the NOGI Award for Sciences the Underwater Society of America (now presented by The Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences) (1968); Medalist Award, Underwater Society of America (1968); Gold Medal Award, Underwater Photographic Society (1968 and 1969); Engineering Merit Award, The Institute for the Advancement of Engineering (1970); Special Award, National Capitol Film Festival, Washington, DC (1970); Honorary Life Membership, Club de Exploraciones y Deportes Acuaticos de Mexico (1973); the NOGI Award for Distinguished Service from the Underwater Society of America (now presented by The Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences) (1989); Fellows Award, Marine Technology Society, Washington, DC (1981); Lockheed Award for Ocean Science and Technology (1990); Escondido Hall of Fame, Escondido, CA (1990); Lowell Award from the Explorers Club (1990); Special Recognition Award from the Los Angeles County Underwater Instructors Association (1994); the NOGI Award for Sports & Education from the Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences (1999); the Roger Revelle Award from the San Diego Oceans Foundation (2000); induction into the Scuba Diving Hall of Fame (awarded in 2005 and inducted in January 2005); and other honors.

Sadly, Dr. Andy Rechnitzer passed away August 22, 2005. Almost immediately, people from around the world that had been affected by Dr. Rechnitzer’s existence and sharing of knowledge gave an outpouring of admiration and sorrow at his departure. A Memorial Service is being planned at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.


(Excerpt from the book, Pioneers In Diving, by Edward C. Cargile. For information about the book, contact ecargile@cox.net)