Phil Nuytten
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Phil Nuytten's Page

About Me: R. T. (Phil) Nuytten, OBC, L.L.D., DSc..

Dr. Phil Nuytten has spent his life in subsea exploration. He has logged many thousands of hours underwater world-wide as a working commercial diver and as a developer of underwater equipment and techniques. He is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of the modern commercial diving industry and a significant force in the creation of new technology.

In the 1960's and 70's, Nuytten was heavily involved in experimental deep-diving and the development of mixed gas decompression tables. In 1968 he was a member of the team that completed the first 600 foot ocean ‘bounce’ dives on ‘Project Nesco’, and in 1972 he wrote the protocol for ‘Deep Work 1000’, the first North American thousand foot saturation dive. These early projects helped set the international standards in use today.

During this period, Phil Nuytten co-founded Oceaneering International Inc. Oceaneering International pioneered many early subsea development projects, and has gone on to become one of the largest underwater skills companies in the world.

In the 1970’s, working with long-time colleague Dr. Joe MacInnis, Nuytten headed the equipment research component of a series of high-arctic expeditions. Among the goals of these expeditions was the testing of his own designs of life-support gear for use in polar and sub-polar conditions. In 1984, Phil Nuytten appeared on the cover of National Geographic Magazine for his record dives through ice-covered arctic waters onto the ‘Breadalbane’, the northern-most known shipwreck. His involvement in underwater activities in virtually all of the world’s oceans has resulted in articles on his work in Reader’s Digest, Business Week, Newsweek, Time, Popular Science, Discovery, Fortune, and Scientific American, as well as dozens of dozens of diving and aerospace technical journals. Nuytten is a popular speaker at underwater conferences around the world and has published numerous technical papers on his leading-edge work in subsea technology.

Dr. Phil Nuytten has been instrumental in the development and current acceptance of Atmospheric Diving System technology. In 1979, he began work on a revolutionary new one-atmosphere diving suit that resulted in a patented break-through in rotary joint design, and formed the basis for the world-famous ‘Newtsuit’. The ‘Newtsuit’ is a thousand foot-rated hard suit that completely protects the wearer from outside pressure and eliminates the need for decompression while still maintaining mobility and dexterity – a “submarine that you wear”. It is now standard equipment in many of the world’s navies.

In 1997, Nuytten and his design team produced the two thousand foot-rated micro-submersible ‘DeepWorker 2000’: a revolutionary deep-diving system that has been called an “underwater sports car”. Nuytten and Nuytco Research Ltd. received a five year contract from the National Geographic Society to provide DeepWorker 2000 submersibles and crews on Dr. Sylvia Earle’s ‘Sustainable Seas Expeditions’: an initiative to study deep ocean environmental impact. The use of the DeepWorker micro-subs to explore and monitor National marine sanctuaries has already increased scientists’ understanding of underwater ecology, habitats, and biodiversity.

In 1999, NASA contracted a pair of DeepWorkers to study their possible use in the recovery of the Space Shuttle booster rockets, and in 2000 DeepWorkers successfully recovered the Space Shuttle booster rockets from the May flight to the U.S. Space Station. NASA is currently studying acquisition of a pair of titanium Deepworkers specifically dedicated to booster rocket recovery. Nuytten’s work with NASA spans more than twenty-five years, and he has published several papers on space applications of undersea technology. He is also a senior member of the American Association of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and a life member of the American Association of Underwater Scientists.

Also in the year 2000, Nuytten introduced a new concept for an ultra light weight, swimming, hard suit called the ‘Exosuit'. Nuytten and his team recently completed a contract for the Canadian Department of National Defence to examine the feasibility of using the Exosuit as a submarine escape device.

In 2003, Nuytten and his design team completed the first side-by-side Dual DeepWorker, designed for a pilot and one observer. This 2000'-rated submersible has both commercial and scientific applications, and has been used for deep-diving underwater tourism.

In 2005, Nuytten and his team finalized development on the ‘Prehensor' – an articulated “hand” for use on one atmosphere diving suits and space-related pressure suits. In addition, the ‘Prehensor' is fully adaptable to remote-controlled manipulators. This three year project has resulted in a prosthetic-like device that mimics the human hand and will allow manipulative dexterity far in advance of the current pliers-style end effectors.

In 2006, the US Navy set a world's record by descending to a depth of 2000 feet in a one-atmosphere ‘Hardsuit' based on Nuytten's original ‘Newtsuit' patent.

Nuytten and his team spent 2008 preparing for the Beta-testing of various sub-systems of the Exosuit, fabricating parts and preparing for a 2009 prototype. Plans to utilize a space version of the Exosuit are under discussion. Nuytten and his team are currently training astronauts from NASA and the Canadian Space Agency as pilots of the DeepWorker Submersibles for the Pavilion Lake Research Project (PLRP), a multi-year research project. The PLRP presents an opportunity to advance the long-term objective of human exploration of the Moon and Mars by combining research on life in extreme environments with high fidelity training in an underwater, remote field setting. The information gained from this analogue project will help to improve the knowledge base, tools and techniques of future human missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond. DeepWorker training continues into the 2009 field season.

Dr. Phil Nuytten has earned many international honours and awards. These include commercial diving's highest award from the Association of Diving Contractors International, the Academy of Underwater Art and Sciences ‘Nogi' award, induction into the ‘Diving Hall of Fame', and the Explorer's Club's prestigious ‘Lowell Thomas' Award. In 1992, Nuytten was awarded the Order of British Columbia, his home province's highest honour, in recognition of his role in making British Columbia one of the world centres of underwater technology.

His outstanding Canadian achievements were recognized again in 2000 when he received the Canadian Underwater Pioneer Award. In 2001 Nuytten received the Jules Verne Award in Paris for his international accomplishments in the subsea field and in 2007 he was recognized and feted as a ‘Legend of the Sea' at the 36th annual exposition ‘Beneath the Sea' in New York .

Dr. Phil Nuytten has spent nearly forty years to developing undersea systems that have the safety of the diving technician as their common theme. His goal has been to provide scientific, technical, military, and sport divers full access to continental shelf depths without the hazards of decompression, so that humans can explore, learn about and - ultimately - protect the world’s oceans

Profile Information

Which of the following are you?
Dive Company Executive/Office Staff, Other
Dive school you went to or are attending?
Co-founded Commercial Divng Center - now called College of Oceaneering
Are you an inland diver, offshore diver or both?
Wherever there's work
What do you like to do with your down time / onshore time?
Develop underwater equipment and techniques
What's your deepest dive? (in feet)

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At 9:23am on June 18, 2010, D Layda said…
Hey Phil,

Could you share your perspective on the proposed limitations of offshore drilling to those depths accessible by manned operations?

If possible could you also briefly touch on the advantages of having a man at the work-site, and how proper safety in design in ADS systems can reduce associated risk exposures to a level below those found in ultra deep saturation operations, say >1500' storage depth.

Lastly in closing, I was curious as to any other information you have available for general release about your swim-able ADS concept/prototype, that tech looks like a beauty, very impressive work!

Thanks for all your contributions to our field, hats off to you sir.

Best regards,


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