Kaiser Park becomes underwater wonderland

Boldy going into Jamaica Bay: Eugene Roddenberry, the son of “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry, gets ready to take a dip in the bay wearing a mid 20th-century dive suit.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Coney Island’s Kaiser Park became a veritable diving mecca on Saturday when a student-made robotic submarine plunged into the murky depths of Jamaica Bay during the Beyond the Sea Waterfront Celebration and Coastal Clean-up event on Oct. 20.

Students in the Coastal Classrooms program at John Dewey High School celebrated the inaugural and very-successful launch of their remote-operated underwater vehicle — a remote-controlled camera that can cruise below the surface of Jamaica Bay — which was their submission in the day’s robotic submarine contest.

“It’s a way for them to look under the water without diving gear, whether they’re looking for sea life, garbage, or just something interesting down there,” said Sin Hom-Gogolak, a spokeswoman for the City Parks Foundation, which provides free educational programs within city parks.

In addition to the John Dewey kids, the Harbor School and Rachel Carson High also submitted their own submersible entries to the event, but the Coney Island school’s was the best and earned $500 worth of scholarship funds, courtesy of the Roddenberry Dive Team.

But the kids weren’t the only ones making a splash. Professional diver Eugene Roddenberry, and son of “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry, had the unique experience of going beneath the waves in a Mark V deep-sea dive suit, which, weighing in at a hefty 192-pounds, are about as heavy as they are rare.

“Eugene’s a very experienced diver, but I think it was his first time in a Mark V. It’s quite a rare thing to be able to do that,” said Maria Hultz of the Beneath the Sea charity foundation, who invited Roddenberry’s team to the event. “I think he did enjoy himself.”

The Mark V was in service with the U.S. Navy from 1943 to the early 1970s, being utilized for deep-sea salvage and munitions recovery, and was built by the Schrader Diving Equipment Company in, where else, Brooklyn, baby!

The old-timey dive suit did its job, albeit, in a cumbersome, unwieldly sort of way.

“You’re like in a baby submarine,” said Gene Ritter, an experienced diver and member of the Cultural Research Divers. “That’s what it’s like. You can move your head, but the Mark V doesn’t move with you.”

Reach reporter Colin MIxson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.

Yep, that’s a submarine: (From left) Masaab Sohaib and Vlad Zaltsman, members of the robotics club from John Dewey High School, hold an underwater robot capable of scooping up trash that they launched at Kaiser Park on Oct. 20.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

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