“In The Aquanauts Own Words” — Celebrating the 45th Anniversary of Project Tektite 1


Aquanats are depicted outside of their underwater habitat in Lameshur Bay, St. John.

The St. John Historical Society (SJHS) is again joining Clean Islands International and the Virgin Islands Environmental Resource Station (VIERS) to celebrate the legacy of Project Tektite. The activities will begin Saturday morning, March 29, at 10 a.m. at the Virgin Islands Environmental Resource Station (VIERS) in Lameshur Bay, in the VI National Park on the south shore of St. John.

VIERS will be celebrating the 45th Anniversary of Project Tektite 1, an ambitious underwater habitat program which took place in Lameshur Bay in the spring of 1969. The program was a cooperative effort by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Departments of Navy and Interior, General Electric’s Missile and Space Division and the Virgin Islands government, including the University of the Virgin Islands. Project Tektite I’s seafloor program was conducted by four aquanauts from February 15 to April 15, 1969.

There were three alternate aquanauts also trained and were actively involved in developing the program. For Project Tektite 2, 53 aquanauts participated in eleven missions (lasting 13 to 20 days each) from April 4 to November 6, 1970. Over 500 people from numerous government agencies and universities both from within the U.S. and around the world participated in the both program’s activities on the quiet remote south side of St. John.

The celebration will start with brief remarks from SJHS President Lonnie Willis, followed by Allan Hunt (from Bermuda), president of Clean Islands International and Randy Brown, representing VIERS.
After welcomes and introductions, a short historic film from Tektite 1, donated by James Miller, Tektite’s program manager, will be viewed. The film will be followed by a panel of four Tektite aquanauts who will share with the audience their recollections about this historic scientific project and they will be available to answer questions. Confirmations have been received from aquanauts John VanDerwalker, Ed Clifton, Ian Koblick and Gary Davis.

Following the presentation by the aquanauts, the Tektite Underwater Habitat Museum will be open to the public. Recent additions to the museum include updated artifact displays, a miniature model of the interior of the habitat, as well as life size replicas of the habitat’s control room and living quarters.

Since the museums beginnings in 2006, each year there has been an increase in visitors.

“We are pleased to share with all our guests and visitors as much information as possible on the importance of Project Tektite in the history of sea and space exploration and its relationship to what has been going on here at VIERS in the past and today,” said Randy Brown, who initiated the museum.

The museum’s collections are ever growing and donations of photographs, slides, films, home movies, newspaper clippings, and other Tektite related objects are appreciated.

“These events open up the past in a way that the written word just cannot capture,” said Brown. “It is always interesting to meet someone who has a connection to Project Tektite and hear stories about what really went on back then.” 

VIERS’ cabins served as the base camp for Project Tektite and is a facility of UVI located within the Virgin Islands National Park. Tours of the VIERS environmental education facility will also be offered after the event.

VIERS will be serving a light lunch at no cost, however donations are appreciated.  To assist with planning for parking and meals, please RSVP to VIERS Manager Tony Blackwell at tony@viers.org or by calling 340-776-6721.

For more information about this event, contact Randy Brown via email at randybrown@islands.org or by calling 410-647-2500.