How UNH scientists spent four days underwater


RYE — It was 1971 when Larry Harris, a professor of zoology at the University of New Hampshire, was approached by Jeff Savage, a professor of mechanical and ocean engineering, to collaborate on a research project. His proposal was to introduce the Dungeness crab, a West Coast species, to the Gulf of Maine off the coast of the Isles of Shoals, to see how it would interact with native species like lobsters and wolffish.

This research however, acted as a justification for an even bigger endeavor: the launching of an underwater habitat called EDALHAB that would house three divers under saturation conditions over the course of four days.

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EDALHAB, which stands for Engineering Design and Analysis Laboratory Habitat, had been constructed in 1968 by three UNH undergraduate engineering students who brought it up to Alton Bay, pressurized it, and submerged it in 20 feet of water. They lived in it successfully for three days. Savage wanted to take EDALHAB for a second mission, this time submerging it in 50 feet of water for bigger research purposes. Little did Savage and Harris know this expedition would make history.

Fifty years later, on June 5, 2022, the team stood proudly in front of EDALHAB on the lawn outside the Seacoast Science Center at Odiorne Point State Park in Rye, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their expedition as part of World Ocean Day.

‘Very cramped’: What it was like in EDALHAB for UNH trio

Bunk beds are seen inside EDALHAB (Engineering Design and Analysis Laboratory Habitat) on the lawn of the Seacoast Science Center at Odiorne Point State Park in Rye during a 50th anniversary celebration Sunday, June 5, 2022.

Among the crowd were the three “aquanauts” who lived in EDALHAB for the duration of the four-day 1971 expedition. They were then zoology students Tom Glennon and Erick Sawtelle, and ocean engineering student Mark Hertel.

“It’s very cramped space for three people in there. And we didn’t sleep in there much,” Sawtelle said. “I think between the three of us we slept about an hour and a half for four days.”

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