Thursday, November 30, 2023

Dive Industry Legend Phil Nuytten Has Died


Phil Nuytten, one of the pioneers of the commercial diving industry, died this week at the age of 81.

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/183-meter ocean “bounce” dives on “Project Nesco,” and in 1972 he wrote the protocol for “Deep Work 1000,” the first North American thousand-foot/305-meter saturation dive. These early projects helped set the international standards in use today.

One of the companies Nuytten founded, Oceaneering International Inc. in 1969, has gone on to become the largest publicly traded underwater skills companies in the world.

Nuytten’s involvement in underwater activities in virtually all of the world’s oceans has resulted in articles on his work in National Geographic, Reader’s Digest, Business Week, Newsweek, Time, Popular Science, Discovery, Fortune and Scientific American, as well as dozens of diving and aerospace technical journals.

Nuytten was instrumental in the development and current acceptance of Atmospheric Diving System technology. In 1977, he began work on a revolutionary new one-atmosphere diving suit that resulted in a patented break-through in rotary joint design, which formed the basis for the world-famous ADS “Newtsuit,” 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. Always looking to improve on technology, he later introduced a new concept for an ultra-lightweight hard suit called the “Exosuit ADS.”

Phil Nuytten in the Newtsuit
Phil Nuytten in the Newtsuit

In spring 2012, the first production Exosuit ADS was unveiled, a natural successor to Nuytten’s original Newtsuit, and, like its predecessor, the Exosuit ADS is now a valuable tool for research scientists around the globe, as well as commercial dive companies, military organizations and explorers.

Another of the many projects Nuytten conceived and patented was the “Remora” submarine rescue system, a rescue vehicle with a manned personnel compartment and a patented articulated mating skirt that permits mating with a disabled submarine at angles of misalignment up to 60 degrees.

During a NATO presentation by the US Navy, “Remora” was described as a major breakthrough in submarine safety. “Remora” vehicles subsequently were purchased by both the Australian and US navies. In 2008, the US Navy announced the successful test of the Pressurized Rescue Module System (PRMS) and described it as “the world’s most technically capable submarine rescue system.” The PRMS was based on Nuytten’s 1997 patent.

In addition, Nuytten was heavily involved in the production of film and TV specials based around his unique technology, including made-for-TV specials like a one-hour CBC special on his life and work called “Descent of Man,” NBC’s “Mysteries of the Sea,” Disney’s “Pressure Point” and dozens of Canadian, US, European and Asian specials.

Nuytten was also senior technical advisor and provided the submersibles and other futuristic subsea devices for James Cameron’s Academy Award-winning movie “The Abyss” and consulted on Cameron’s “Titanic.”

At the time of his death, Nuytten was chairman of the Academy of Underwater Arts & Sciences and had been inducted into that organization’s Diving Hall of Fame in 1997.

John Liang
John Liang
John Liang is the News Editor at He first got the diving bug while in High School in Cairo, Egypt, where he earned his PADI Open Water Diver certification in the Red Sea off the Sinai Peninsula. Since then, John has dived in a volcanic lake in Guatemala, among white-tipped sharks off the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, and other places including a pool in Las Vegas helping to break the world record for the largest underwater press conference.