Aquanauts Dive St. John for NASA

Millions of people flock to St. John each year to enjoy the warm Caribbean waters and sunshine. There seems to be a special ‘call of the sea’ that lures people to come, and stay, for a while. Here at Ocean Runner, we hear it all the time! Perhaps it is the crystal clear water, or the bright azure color of the sea, the white sandy beaches, or something else. We know St. John is special, but did you know that NASA felt the same way? Here is a little-known story about St. John and NASA’s Aquanauts that may make you love it here even more!

The Tektite Museum for Aquanauts has models from the underwater habitat in Lameshure Bay
How long would you survive as an Aquanaut living below the deep blue?

It was February 1969 and NASA was preparing to launch the Apollo 11. It would be our first attempt to land a man on the moon. There were many unknowns, to say the least. NASA needed to study the affects of extreme isolation on its astronauts (and the effects of spectacularly bad space-food on morale) and so it looked to our world’s ocean to provide the right environment for its observations. In coordination with the United States Office of Naval Research, teams of four men and four women were selected to be “Aquanauts” – to live in isolation in the deep blue. They would be under 24-hour observation in an underwater habitat 50 feet below the surface of the water for weeks at a time. Where was this underwater habitat? Right here in St. John!

A magazine article from Time Life shows the underwater habitat for the Aquanauts of the Tektite built by General Electric for NASA
The underwater habitat was designed and engineered by General Electric for NASA

Designed and built by General Electric, the habitat was called “Tektite” and lived in Lameshure Bay! Today there is a museum at the Virgin Islands Environmental Resource Station (VIERS) dedicated to the Tektite project. Free and open to the public during weekdays, the museum offers a rare glimpse into the slightly bizarre history of underwater scientific research. True to its time period, the museum houses the actual news and magazine articles published during the project. These articles, from major publications like TIME and the New York Times, highlight just how much we know, and how much we still have to learn, about our world oceans. (They also have really funny headlines and classic ads that are sure to make you chuckle, and your kids ask questions!). You will also see the amazingly primitive-looking scuba gear that the Aquanauts used to conduct record-breaking dives, and get a chance to see to-scale models of the Tektite’s interior living spaces!

Tektite museum at VIERS for the Aquanauts in St. John has beds from the underwater habitat that you can lay down on to see what life would be like as an aquanaut
Sweet dreams! Imagine sleeping 50 feet below the sea!

So, if you are looking for a fun day cultural day on St. John, take a field trip out towards Lameshure Bay and stop by VIERS. You can pack a picnic lunch from Sam and Jack’s Deli. Don’t forget to bring your snorkel gear so you can swim out into Lameshure Bay after your visit, or book a boat trip with Ocean Runner and make Lameshure one of your swim stops! Then, you will see just why NASA thought St. John fertile grounds for their first at-sea mission!

  • “Lobsters, Snorkeling and Cliff Jumping..oh my!” "We spent a glorious day with Captain Morgan! This was our first trip to the area and he managed to cram in a ton of activities and sights while still allowing us to just relax and take a slow, chill vacation day. There were 4 of us--two adults and our young adult children. He picked us up from St. Thomas and took the time to figure out what we wanted--rather than just taking us to a standard cookie cutter list of places. Over the course of the day we snorkeled and swam on quiet beaches, ate freshly cooked lobster at Sidney's, explored the area and capped off the afternoon with a leap off of a 40 foot cliff into the deep blue sea. Pure perfection. Morgan was friendly and fun. Would recommend to anyone looking for a relaxing day on the water!"    
    David C
  • "Our family of four spent the day with Jeremy as our Captain. He let us pick our day along with some of his suggestions. We ended up snorkeling at the Norman Island Caves and The Indians. Had a fabulous lunch at Pirates Bight , drinks and jumps at Willy T and finally spent some time at Jost Van Dyke and the beach . Jeremy was professional, friendly and we always felt safe. Would definitely recommend Ocean Runner for anyone looking for a day on the water." Visited July 2015
    Debbie S
  • "What an experience. Took a trip to the British VI's to see the Bath's, Caves at Norman Island and Jost Van Dyke. Hired Ocean Runner to take us there for a full day trip. Captain Tom Larson took care of us like we were his own family. He was so knowledgeable when it came to the history of the islands surrounding St. John and the BVI's. Highly recommend Captain Larson and Ocean Runner for your excursions out of St. John."
    John S
  • "The boat we rented from Ocean Runner was well-maintained, the staff were courteous and obviously experienced, and the advice and service excellent!  We would strongly recommend OR to anyone seeking a powerboat rental while visiting St John."
    Dana - Nashville
  • "We have used Ocean Runner quite a few times during our family vacations and always have had a wonderful day. Last year we had a larger group and had to use another company. The difference was obvious from the get-go. Of course we enjoyed the day - it's impossible not to - but the overall experience was not up to what we have enjoyed with Ocean Runner."
    Janet - Massachusetts