George F. Bond

George Foote Bond, MD
Nickname(s) Papa Topside
Born (1915-11-14)November 14, 1915
Willoughby, Ohio
Died January 3, 1983(1983-01-03) (aged 67)
Bat Cave, North Carolina
Allegiance United States United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1953–1978
Rank Captain
Awards Navy Commendation Medal, Legion of Merit with two gold stars

Capt. George Foote Bond USN (ret.) (November 14, 1915 – January 3, 1983) was an American physician who was known as a leader in the field of undersea and hyperbaric medicine and the "Father of Saturation Diving".[1][2]

Early life

George Foote Bond was born November 14, 1915 in Willoughby, Ohio to Robert and Louise Foot Bond.[1] Bond received a Bachelor and Master of Arts from the University of Florida in 1939.[1] While a student at UF, he became a member of the Sigma Nu Fraternity.[3] He then attended medical school at McGill University where he completed his medical training in surgery in 1945.[1] Bond performed his internship at the Memorial Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina.[1] In 1946, Bond established a rural medicine practice in Bat Cave, North Carolina.[1] Seeing a need in the community, Bond established the Valley Clinic and Hospital in 1948.[1] Bond was recognized by the community as "Doctor of the Year" in 1953. The people of the area showed their affection towards Bond when he appeared on the national television show This Is Your Life on June 22, 1955.[1][4]

This is a photo of Commander (Medical Corps) George F. Bond and Chief Engineman Cyril Tuckfield after safely completing a 302-foot buoyant ascent in 52 SECONDS from the forward escape trunk of the USS Archerfish bottomed at 322 feet
Dr. George Bond and Chief Engineman Cyril Tuckfield following record buoyant ascent in 1959

Bond entered active Navy service in 1953.[1] Soon after he qualified as a Diving and Submarine Medical Officer and served as Squadron Medical Officer from 1954 to 1958.[1] Later that year, Bond transferred to the Naval Medical Research Laboratory in Groton, Connecticut where he served as the Officer-in-Charge until 1964.[1] It was during this time that Bond conducted his earliest experiments into saturation diving techniques.[1]

On October 2, 1959, approximately 15 miles southwest of Key West, Commander Bond and Chief Engineman Cyril Tuckfield safely completed a 52-second, 302-foot buoyant ascent from the forward escape trunk of the U.S. Navy submarine USS Archerfish. Both men received the Legion of Merit in 1960 for establishing the feasibility of deep submarine escape by locking out.[1]

Anne Rudloe third from left in United States Naval base in Panama City in underwater research and diving techniques 1960s. In the back row, fourth from the right, is Dr. (Captain) George F. Bond, senior medical officer and principal investigator for the Sealab I and Sealab II experiments in the mid-1960s.

Project Genesis

Albert R. Behnke proposed the idea of exposing humans to increased ambient pressures long enough for the blood and tissues to become saturated with inert gases in 1942.[5][6] In 1957, Bond began the Genesis project proving that humans could in fact withstand prolonged exposure to different breathing gases and increased environmental pressures.[2][5] Once saturation is achieved, the amount of time needed for decompression depends on the depth and gases breathed. This was the beginning of saturation diving and the US Navy's Man-in-the-Sea Program.[1]

Genesis was conducted in phases. In 1957 and 1958, the first two phases (A and B) involved exposing animals to saturation in various breathing gases.[7] The experiments are summarized in the table below:

Genesis Project Phases A and B [note 1]
Phase Animal Depth Duration Breathing Gas Results
A1 Wistar rats 198 fsw [note 2] 35 hours Air Rats all died, attributed to oxygen toxicity
A2 Wistar rats 198 fsw 14 days 3% Oxygen/ 97% Nitrogen 15 of 16 animals survived, lung lesions found in survivors[8]
A3 Wistar rats 1.5 ATA [note 3] 35 hours Oxygen Rats all died
B1 Wistar rats 1 ATA 16 days 20% Oxygen/ 80% Helium All survived
B2 Wistar rats 200 fsw 14 days 3% Oxygen/ 97% Helium All survived
B3 Wistar rats, Goat, Squirrel monkey 200 fsw 14 days 3% Oxygen/ 97% Helium All survived

Once the animal work was completed, Bond proposed offering "the opportunity for development of ecological systems which would permit man, as a free agent, to live and work to depths at 600 feet, and for periods in excess of 30 days."[2] This proposal was rejected but in 1962, interest in helium-oxygen atmospheres for manned space flights made Phase C possible.[2]

Fred Korth was the Secretary of the Navy in 1962 and authorized Phase C involving saturation of three subjects at one atmosphere (surface) in a 21.6% oxygen, 4% nitrogen, and 74.4% helium environment for six days.[2][5] The divers for this trial were Lieutenants John C. Bull, Jr., Albert P. Fisher, Jr., and Chief Quartermaster Robert A. Barth.[5] Physiologically, the subjects showed no changes though difficulty controlling their body temperature as well as changes in their speech from the helium were noted.[5]

Effect of helium on a human voice
The effect of helium on a human voice

Problems playing this file? See media help.

Phase D experiments were conducted at the United States Navy Experimental Diving Unit in 1963.[5] The subjects for these trials were Robert A. Barth, Sanders W. Manning, and Raymond R. Lavois.[5] The subjects performed the world's first saturation dive at a depth of 100 feet of seawater (fsw) in a 7% oxygen, 7% nitrogen, and 86% helium environment for 6 days.[5] Light exercise and underwater swimming was performed periodically in the "wet pot" (a water-filled hyperbaric chamber).[5] Again the difficulty controlling their body temperature was a concern and the helium speech became worse at the greater environmental pressure.[5]

Bond returned the team to the Naval Medical Research Laboratory for the Phase E trials in 1963.[5] The divers were John C. Bull, Jr., Robert A. Barth, and Sanders W. Manning.[5] They were saturated for 12 days at 198 fsw breathing 3.9% oxygen, 6.5% nitrogen and 89.6% helium.[5] The temperature and voice communications problems continued with communications with the surface being virtually impossible.[5] A 27-hour linear ascent was made from saturation.[5][9]

Bond summarized the Genesis experiments:[8]
As a result of some six years of animal and human studies involving closed ecological systems, elevated pressures, and synthetic atmospheres, the stage has been set for operational application of the work. It would now appear that we can safely station men at any point on the submerged continental shelf, with a reasonable expectancy of useful performance for prolonged periods of time.

The Genesis chamber is still in use as a research facility today at the Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory.[10]


Against a blue background, the head and shoulders of a man with a diving mask raised onto his forehead and a corrugated hose over each shoulder to a mouthpiece hanging on his chest. Below is a large cylinder with divers approaching it.
NOAA drawing of Dr. Bond and the SEALAB habitat. (1960s) Captain George Bond's Discoveries Enable Divers to Stay Below Indefinitely
This is a photo of Dr. Walter F. Mazzone and Dr. George Bond inside the communications center of SEALAB I
Drs. Walter Mazzone and George Bond inside the communications center of SEALAB I

Following the success of the Genesis Project, Edwin Link initiated his Man-in-the-Sea dives followed shortly thereafter by Cousteau and his Conshelf experiments. "Papa Topside" Bond initiated and served as the Senior Medical Officer and principal investigator of the US Navy SEALAB program.[2]

SEALAB I was lowered off the coast of Bermuda in 1964 to a depth of 192 fsw below the sea's surface. It was constructed from two converted floats and held in place with axles from railroad cars. Bond and Captain Walter Mazzone inspected the habitat prior to the beginning of the project.[2] The experiment involved four divers (LCDR Robert Thompson, MC; Gunners Mate First Class Lester Anderson, Chief Quartermaster Robert A. Barth, and Chief Hospital Corpsman Sanders Manning), who were to stay submerged for three weeks. The experiment was halted after 11 days due to an approaching tropical storm.[2] SEALAB I proved that saturation diving in the open ocean was a viable means for expanding our ability to live and work in the sea. The experiment also provided engineering solutions to habitat placement, habitat umbilicals, humidity, and helium speech descrambling.[2]

SEALAB II was launched in 1965 to assess the feasibility of utilizing saturation techniques and tools "to remain deep beneath the ocean surface indefinitely and accomplish a variety of tasks that would be difficult or impossible to accomplish by repeated dives from the surface."[11] It was placed in the La Jolla Canyon off the coast of California, at a depth of 205 fsw. On August 28, 1965, the first of three teams of divers moved into what became known as the “Tilton Hilton” (Tiltin' Hilton, because of the slope of the landing site). Unlike SEALAB I, it also included hot showers and refrigeration. Each team spent 15 days in the habitat, but aquanaut/astronaut Scott Carpenter remained below for a record 30 days. In addition to physiological testing, the divers tested new tools, methods of salvage, and an electrically heated drysuit.[12][13] One case of decompression sickness was treated by Dr. Bond.[14]

SEALAB III used a refurbished SEALAB II habitat, but was placed in water three times as deep. Five teams of nine divers were scheduled to spend 12 days each in the habitat, testing new salvage techniques and conducting oceanographic and fishery studies.[15][16] According to John Piña Craven, the U.S. Navy's head of the Deep Submergence Systems Project of which SEALAB was a part, SEALAB III "was plagued with strange failures at the very start of operations".[17] On February 15, 1969, SEALAB III was lowered to 610 fsw (185 m), off San Clemente Island, California. The habitat soon began to leak and six divers were sent to repair it, but they were unsuccessful. Tragically, during the second attempt, aquanaut Berry L. Cannon died.[2] The SEALAB program came to a halt, and although the habitat was retrieved, it was eventually scrapped. Aspects of the research continued but no new habitats were built.[18]

Memberships, awards, and recognition

Bond was decorated with a Navy Commendation Medal for "heroic, professional, and scientific achievement" while he was the Medical Officer for Submarine Squadron One from 1954 to 1956.[1] The Legion of Merit was awarded in 1960 for establishing the feasibility of deep submarine escape by locking out of a submarine at a depth of 302 fsw with two additional gold stars being earned for his work with SEALAB I (1964) and SEALAB II (1965).[1]

The US Navy dedicated the new Ocean Simulation Facility at the United States Navy Experimental Diving Unit in honor of Dr. Bond in 1974.[2]

Bond served on the first Board of Advisors for the National Association of Underwater Instructors.[19]

Bond's leadership helped establish the Man-In-The-Sea Museum in 1977 with a goal to preserve the history of undersea exploration.[20]


Bond died on January 3, 1983 in North Carolina.[1] He is buried in Bat Cave, NC.

Grave site, Bat Cave, NC


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 Shilling, Charles (1983). "Papa Topside". Pressure. Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society. 12 (1): 1–2. ISSN 0889-0242.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Murray, John (2005). ""Papa Topside", Captain George F. Bond, MC, USN" (PDF). Faceplate. 9 (1): 8–9. Retrieved 2010-01-15.
  3. The Seminole Yearbook. Gainesville, FL: University of Florida. 1934 and 1935. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  4. Davidson, Jim (2005). "This Is Your Life: Radio and TV Episode List". Classic TV Info. Retrieved 2010-01-15.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 Miller, James W; Koblick, Ian G (1984). Living and working in the sea. Best Publishing Company. p. 432. ISBN 1-886699-01-1.
  6. Behnke, Albert R (1942). "Effects of High Pressures; Prevention and Treatment of Compressed-air illness.". Medical Clinics of North America. 26: 1212–1237.
  7. Workman, Robert D; Bond, George F; Mazzone, Walter F (1967). "Prolonged exposure of animals to pressurized normal and synthetic atmospheres". Naval Submarine Medical Research Lab Technical Report (NSMRL-374). Retrieved 2010-01-29.
  8. 1 2 Bond, George F (September 1964). "New Developments in high pressure living". Archives of Environmental Health. 9: 310–4. doi:10.1080/00039896.1964.10663844. PMID 14172781.
  9. Lord, GP; Bond, GF; Schaefer, KE (November 1966). "Breathing under high ambient pressure". Journal of Applied Physiology. 21 (6): 1833–8. PMID 5929310.
  10. Daniel, J Christopher (2006). "Leveraging Biomedical Knowledge to Enhance Homeland Defense, Submarine Medicine and Warfighter Performance at Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory". CHIPS Magazine. Space & Naval Warfare Systems Center. 24 (1). Retrieved 2010-01-15. reprinted as NSMRL Technical Report Number 1245
  11. "SEALAB II A Summary Report". URG Bulletin. 1965. Retrieved 2010-01-17.
  12. Radloff, Roland; Helmreich, Robert (1968). Groups Under Stress: Psychological Research in Sealab II. Appleton-Century-Crofts. ISBN 0-89197-191-2.
  13. Clarke, TA; Flechsig, AO; Grigg, RW (September 1967). "Ecological studies during Project Sealab II. A sand-bottom community at depth of 61 meters and the fauna attracted to "Sealab II" are investigated". Science. 157 (3795): 1381–9. Bibcode:1967Sci...157.1381C. doi:10.1126/science.157.3795.1381. PMID 4382569.
  14. Bladh, Jim; Ruden, Pete (2005). "One Navy Diver's "Most Excellent" Adventure" (PDF). Faceplate. 9 (1): 10–14. Retrieved 2010-01-15.
  15. Kuling, JW; Summitt, JK (1970). "Saturation Dives, with Excursions, for the Development of a Decompression Schedule for Use during SEALAB III". Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine Technical Report. NEDU-RR-9-70. Retrieved 2010-01-17.
  16. Crowley, RW; Summitt, JK (1970). "Report of Experimental Dives for SEALAB III Surface Support Decompression Schedules". US Navy Experimental Diving Unit Technical Report. NEDU-RR-15-70. Retrieved 2010-01-17.
  17. Craven, John Piña (2001). The Silent War: The Cold War Battle Beneath the Sea, New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-684-87213-7
  18. Searle, Willard F; Kunz, HS (1969). "Test procedures for supervisor of salvage sponsored work projects for Sealab III". Deep Submergence Systems, Office of Naval Research.
  19. Tillman, Albert A; Tillman, Thomas T. "The history of NAUI" (PDF). Scuba America Historical Foundation. Retrieved 2010-01-15.
  20. "About Man in the Sea Museum". Man in the Sea Museum. Retrieved 2010-01-15.


  1. table adapted from Miller and Koblick
  2. fsw = feet of sea water; 200 fsw represents an ambient pressure of approximately 7 atmospheres absolute (ATA) or 700 kPa
  3. ATA = atmospheres absolute; an ambient pressure of 1.5 ATA (150 kPa) represents approximately 17 feet of sea water


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