Subsea Stories



Vickie says: As Al Trice and I worked on this story, it just got more and more interesting—and longer and longer, particularly though additional emails with Scott Waters, Tom Roberts and Al Witney. So, you’ll want to grab a coffee and settle in for a good, long read.

Please get back to me ( and Scott Waters ( with any additional information or corrections to fill out this amazing saga of Pisces VI and other HYCO vessels and personnel.

When HYCO launched Pisces VI in 1976, its hulls had been cast from Rheinstahl forgings in Germany since their metal formulation was to be equal to HY100 specifications. These were then eventually machined at Sulzer, in Winterthur, Switzerland.

Al Trice recalls, “…the Swiss took forever. I guess they thought they were building a watch. However, when the job was finally done, it was perfect. The sphered were machined to three thousandths of an inch! So instead of using them for the Russians, we decided to keep them for HYCO.”

Tom Roberts adds: “Pisces VI was an amazing piece of equipment. The hulls for almost all HYCO-made vehicles were sent down to the Southwest Research Institute labs in San Antonio, Texas, for pressure testing. Using a very large pressure chamber, they can squeeze hulls, simulating great depths. Pisces VI was built for a 2,000-metre depth capability, which is a mile and a quarter straight down. The lab took them to the full pressure rating of their test chamber and there was still no sign of yield whatsoever. In fact, the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) gave the sub a deeper depth rating of 2,500 metres because of the excellent pressure test results. Everyone who ever dived in Pisces VI felt secure.”

HYCO’s decision to keep Pisces VI for their own work was a wise one, but not without problems as Doug Taylor noted in his story about completing HYCO’s second contract with the Russians. That agreement was for two submersibles–Pisces VII and what was to have been Pisces VI.

Once HYCO decided to keep Pisces VI for themselves, Doug notes, “the problem was where to get a second set of hulls for the Russians. The solution came from Victoria Machinery Depot who said they could build 2,000-meter rated hulls from Welten 80C steel if they made the hulls out of twelve smaller segments instead of six larger ones. Doing so would result in both significant cost and time savings. It was a big gamble, but one that paid off for HYCO. The next challenge was telling the Russians that HYCO was substituting the Pisces XI hulls for the Pisces VI ones. That swap almost blew up the contract and there was huge push back.”

Doug recalls the night before the sea trials in 1976. “The Russians had arrived, but refused to attend the sea trials because HYCO had switched the submersible hulls from Pisces VI to Pisces XI. Success occurred in another late meeting with much vodka again being poured and herring consumed. This time I was the one to show weakness when my fingers, oily from the pickled herring, squirted my glass of vodka across the room like a cherry pit. There was much cheering. The next day on schedule we all flew up to sea trials at Jervis Inlet.” The acceptance papers got signed, the submersible got loaded, HYCO met their delivery deadline, and the final payment was made.

Putting Pisces VI to work for HYCO

Tom Roberts recalls Pisces VI finishing up what was maybe the submersible’s first job. It took place off the Farallon Islands, off the California coast (San Francisco area), aboard the Pandora mother ship. “That’s where hundreds of potentially radio-active barrels, each filed with concrete and weighing 800 lbs, had been dumped in 3000 feet of water.” Al Trice notes that the Canadians weren’t allowed to have anything to do with anything radioactive, but Pisces VI was the only thing that could lift 800 lbs. So, the contract was for the submersible to locate and pick up a sample barrel of radioactive waste material for inspection, one of several that had been dumped there many years prior. As a result, everybody on the crew had to wear a dosimeter, a device to measure accumulated exposure to ionizing radiation. Fortunately, there was no observable indication of any exposure.

Interstate Electronics Corp was the main contractor for the recovery project. The Pandora served as mother ship, supporting the submersible and its crew. The contractor also hired the Velero VI as a second ship whose role was to receive any radioactive materials recovered by the submersible. Pisces VI also made several dives to collect biologic samples (sponges, etc.) in the area; these samples were taken on board the Velero VI, as well.

The Pisces VI crew for this contract were as follows:

  • Al Trice: surface officer and lead HYCO rep
  • John Witney: Pisces VI pilot and mechanical maintainer
  • Al Witcombe: Pisces VI pilot and mechanical maintainer
  • Rick Shafer: Comms officer
  • Gary Kalpakoff: contract photographer, camera maintenance and diver
  • Tom Roberts: electrical/electronics tech and rubber boat operator
Top left: The Velero VI with the Farallon’s in the background.
Top right – John Witney was HYCO’s pilot for this project, along with a couple of Pisces 4 pilots from the Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans. (Note: pipe smoking was all the rage then).
Bottom left – PVI aboard Pandora getting ready to launch.
Bottom right – PVI in the Pandora hangar bay, as configured for the Farallon’s project.

When the job in the Farallons wrapped up, Doug Taylor had successfully negotiated HYCO’s first significant contract with the Getty Oil consortium, so Pisces VI was shipped to Texas, in preparation for transport to the drillship Discoverer Seven Seas, which was about to start exploratory drilling off the west coast of Africa (Pointe Noire, Congo – Brazzaville).

Tom Roberts recalls, “Al Trice and I went to Texas to prepare the submersible and support container, spares, etc.) for shipping to Africa. After PVI was put on a ship in Texas, we traveled back to Vancouver to get ready ourselves to go to Africa (vaccine shots, visa applications for entry into Africa, etc.).” Al and Tom then made the first dives from the drillship. “We set a world record for the deepest dives in support of drilling operations from the drillship.” After 68 days on board, John Witney relieved Al Trice and Tom Roberts as pilots board the drillship.

(Top photo above) The Pisces VI crew’s first look at the Discoverer Seven Seas, their new home. The derrick on that ship is capable of lifting a million lbs. (Middle left photo) Temporary guide base located in the ship’s moonpool. (Middle right picture) Temporary guide base located on the sea floor (4752 FSW) (Lower left photo) PVI located on the helicopter deck of the drillship. Daily temp in this location was 100+ deg F. (Lower right photo) Al Trice aboard the supply ship that delivered the Pisces VI and her support equipment from Pointe Noire to the drillship.


Tom Roberts notes that after the Congo job, the drillship’s next big contract was slated for the east coast of Canada, so Al Trice went to St. John’s to design and fabricate a launch and recovery system for the submersible that could deal with the rougher Canadian seas.

Comex had the contract for supply services to the drillship at all locations, including divers, and a flying bell system. But that Comex system did not have the dive depth capacity for the deep drilling planned. So, it was removed in Halifax and replaced with Al Trice’s new launch and recovery system. Also, Tom recalls that the drillship folks did not like the fact that Pisces VI was located on the Helo deck as it was supposed to be an off-limits area for the entire crew. Both were contributing factors in the push for a new launch and recovery system.

Al Trice recalls the story of preparations for that next drilling job that would be in Canadian waters. “When we first went out with Pisces VI on the drillship Discoverer Seven Seas, we were off the French Congo in Africa. They were drilling just south of the equator, and the seas were calm there, so we were launching Pisces VI from the helicopter deck using a crane. That worked just fine. But when it came time to drill off the coast of Newfoundland, I knew that there was no way we could use a crane to launch. Like the North Sea, it was just too rough all the time. So, I had to design an alternative launch and recovery system.”

The Discoverer Seven Seas was drilling in 5000 ft of water, 250 miles offshore. Al recalls that the cost of renting a drillship to do that kind of work was up to about $250,000 a day! So, it was critical that the LARS be ready as soon as the ship arrived in St. John’s.

The budget for that first Canadian well off the coast of Newfoundland was $25,000 million, and that was just for an exploratory well! This was during the first half of 1979, just as HYCO was in receivership. The receivers wanted us to complete this big contract so they told us to just find someone to build the LARS. But given that situation, no local yard would touch it.

It was pretty clear to me that the receivers just didn’t really care about us, so I called a meeting and said, “If you guys don’t stop screwing around, you’ll be the ones in receivership.” They asked why? And I told them, “If we don’t get this launch and recovery system built in time, the oil company will sue you!” With that, the receiver pointed to me and said, “Give that man anything he wants.”

So, I went to St. John’s for three months, got an apartment, rented a car and found a fabricating plant that would build the LARS. Their guys immediately started working 16 hours a day. Eventually they revolted, and that work schedule was cut back to 14 hours. But that’s just what we had to do to meet the schedule. I told HYCO that I wanted overtime, too, if I was going to spend three months nonstop building this thing. Dave Doman, who had replaced Jim McFarlane as chief engineer at HYCO, about had a stroke when I told him that. But the receivers had said, “Give that man anything he wants” so I got my overtime.

Getty Oil originally leased the drillship Discoverer Seven Seas and then subleased it to other oil companies like Chevron. They had an office in St. John’s and were always calling me up to see how I was doing. They would ask, “What can we do to help you?” As a joke, one time I told them, “Get me a Lear jet.” And they agreed! “No, no, no,” I said. “I was just kidding.” Oil work was always big business, and those oil companies weren’t afraid to spend a lot of money if it would save them time.

The engineering staff on that drill rig ship were all from the Philippines and were very well educated. I remember that the chief engineer was at one of these meetings when the ship came in and was asked, “Have you got all your fuel?” He confirmed that he did, but another guy told him, “Remember we’ve got another million gallons for you if you need it.”

In the end, we got the launch and recovery system of Pisces VI done on time, and I saved the drilling company $5 million! When the Discoverer Seven Seas showed up, the ship was in such a hurry that I didn’t even get a chance for any sea trials for the LARS. We left St. John’s in a screaming gale and Pisces VI went to work in Canada.” Tom Roberts adds that Tim Joys, Robin Gauss, John Goolsby, Jon Chapman, Rick Boggs and Ted Agon worked with the new system.

Once I asked Al if those lengthy kinds of projects weren’t tough on family life. He agreed, “Yes, particularly if you were at sea. But I could call home from St. John’s.” And then he added, “Georgina’s father was a fisherman so their family was used to that kind of schedule.” Coming from a construction family, I had a pretty good idea of what he was talking about.

A Change of Ownership for Pisces VI

As the exploratory drilling contract in Canada was drawing to a close, Dennis Hurd negotiated the next HYCO contract with Getty for the drillship, along with Pisces VI, both of which were to begin work in the Mediterranean. However, it was 1978, the time that HYCO went into receivership. Despite the fact that HYCO had initially won the bid/contract with Getty, the receivers thought they could do better and arranged for a second bid. In this round, HYCO lost out to Andre Galerne of International Underwater Contractors so IUC got the contract as well as the HYCO asset of Pisces VI and its support gear.

At the time, International Underwater Contractors was among the world’s largest deep-sea construction companies. “I think they paid a million for it,” Al Trice says. IUC was headed by Andre Galerne who also invented a portable pressurized chamber and helped establish a hyperbaric medical facility in Aberdeen, Scotland. Subsequently, Tom Roberts was hired by IUC as an independent contractor. His job was to pilot the submersible, train IUC’s crew, and to repair broken thruster controllers and Hymack motors. “Alas, the IUC crews were not very kind to the PVI,” he adds. Eventually the submersible was retired by IUC, put into storage, and the rear pressure hull was removed for an attempted conversion into an ROV.

The left photo shows Pisces VI when owned by International Underwater Contractors (IUC). The right-hand photo shows PVI with the new launch and recovery system, located on the starboard side of the Discoverer Seven Seas drillship where the Comex Flying Bell was once located. Note the logo change on the front of the sail.

Finding New Work

Suddenly without a job, Al Trice, Dennis Hurd and Steve Johnson put together a little company called Southern Offshore Engineering. They got hold of the Perry sub Diaphus, leased from Texas A&M University, a support boat, and ISE’s Dart, one of Jim McFarlane’s little ROVs. (Note: I had mistakenly heard they worked with Pisces VI but that wasn’t the case.) Then, they headed back down to the Gulf of Mexico, using the Diaphus submersible and ROV to monitor drilling operations for new oil wells. But, as Tom notes, “By the late 1970s and early ’80s, submersibles had become dinosaurs in the oil and gas industry.”

[Note: Southern Offshore Engineering became OffShore Engineering, which later morphed into Dennis Hurd’s Sub Aquatics Development Corp, and eventually Atlantis Submarines.]

Upper photo is of the Diaphus being recovered to the support ship Pawnee Arrow. Tom Roberts is riding on top of the Perry sub, handling the “Recovery Diver Routine” as he says. Al Trice was rubber boat operator and photographer on this job.
Photo (left): Diaphus on its cradle, with Steve Johnson and Tim (missing last name?)
Photo (right): Diaphus aboard the Pawnee Arrow. “Note the odd recovery gear in the background,” Tom explains. This submersible had a single battery pod located under the pressure hull. This meant that a cradle was needed for landing the Diaphus. Otherwise, the silly thing would fall over on its side.” That’s Steve Johnson standing in front of Diaphus with his hands on the handrails; beside him is Pat Hickey.

An email to Terry Kerby, who for decades piloted Pisces IV and Pisces V at the Hawaii Underwater Research Lab (HURL), filled in this interesting piece of the Pisces VI puzzle. “I had an ongoing effort to get Pisces VI from Andre (Galerne) when we still had the support at Hawaii to get it operational. By that time, we were Pisces overhaul experts. I wanted to take the best features of what we did with Pisces V and Pisces IV and incorporate them into Pisces VI, but Galerne wasn’t interested. After Andre passed away (in 2008), his son Lionel contacted me about passing Pisces VI to HURL, but by that time I was fighting to keep our own two subs going with very little support. So, I am glad Pisces VI went to Scott Waters.”

Vickie notes, “I lost the trail of Pisces VI until 2019 when Al Trice and I were talking about the various Pisces that HYCO built and he mentioned that he had heard from a young man named Scott Waters who had just purchased Pisces VI. At about the same time I got a copy of the Aquatica newsletter that said Scott and his crew might be coming out to B.C. to do some training. Man, did my ears pick up!”

A New Owner and a New Life for Pisces VI

Vickie continues: That was my initial introduction to Scott Waters of Salina, Kansas. As a young 29-year-old, he bought the sub from the Galerne family in 2015. As a kid, Scott had taught himself how to weld and in 2008, beginning at the age of 22, he spent five years building a Kittredge 350 sub, along with Carl Boyer. But now he had bigger dreams. While he couldn’t pay anything like the full asking price for Pisces VI, the family agreed to the sale because he did present a serious plan for refitting the sub and putting it back to work.

Scott set up his company Pisces VI Submarine, LLC, built a custom shop in Kansas for the refit, and spread the word, attracting staff like electrical tech River Dolfi, mechanical whiz and senior technician Carl Boyer, and filmmaker Mick Kaczorowsky, plus crucial volunteers like Vance Bradley (with Perry Subs background). “We just kept finding people to come to the team.”

Asked what’s been the toughest part of the four-year refit, Scott laughs and says, “All of it—both physically and mentally. But removing the fiberglass from the main sphere was a real job. And the sub was missing its tail sphere. It had been cannibalized to make into an ROV, and the drop weight was missing, too. Tom Roberts adds, “Having done some work for IUC, my opinion of this company went well into the tank when I heard they had cannibalized the submersible in order to make an ROV that sank. Separating the pressure vessel set for the PVI was/is the stupidest thing they could have done. Those hulls were as perfect as possible. Subsequently the PVI payload has been reduced considerably; it was too bad that had to happen.”

In addition to other refit work like figuring out the saltwater pump, River Dolfi states, “We knew the sub and its command module had to be inexpensive to transport, so we worked hard to get them into two 20’ shipping/storage containers. That required resizing the sub to be 1 foot, 6” shorter—quite the challenge.”

In the fall of 2019, the team brought Pisces VI to North Vancouver for more work and pilot training. Scott says, “We almost went to Florida, but B.C.’s subsea history was a big draw. We had planned to work with Aquatica, but just as we arrived, we found out that the company had laid off its entire staff and closed its doors! Forced to scramble, Scott found temporary space at a facility in North Vancouver and the team continued refit work. Electrical technician River Dolfi traveled to Seattle and talked with former HYCO employee and Pisces pilot Deloye “Scratch” McDonald who shared some of his treasure trove of Pisces blueprints that former Boeing engineer Warren Joslyn had produced over the ten years he worked for HYCO.”

I was delighted to set up an opportunity for Scott (second left) and River to meet and talk in person with Al Trice (far left) and Tom Roberts (far right). They traded insider info, stories and advice about PVI and submersibles in general. As Tom Roberts recounted, “The motto at HYCO was always ‘Keep it simple and it will work,’ because the minute you complicate things, it will come back and bite you.”

2020: Moving the company and submersible to Tenerife, Spain

Forced to regroup and find a permanent base of operations, in November of 2020, Scott wrote: “Things are moving quickly for us. As I write this, Pisces VI is in the middle of the Atlantic on a container ship on the way to Tenerife (in the Canary Islands), Spain. We have been here for a month getting established.” Then in March of 2021, he added, “Covid really messed up our plans and everything has had to be replanned. We have moved to Tenerife in the Canary Islands and have changed from an American company to a Spanish company. We are working towards finishing all of our testing and training.”

In September of 2021 he sent this update: “We had a very hard time getting established in Spain and getting through all the processes required to operate there, but we have completed harbor trials and will start mid-water trials in October and November. The current plan is to do the final certification dives in December aboard OSV Nautilus. We’ll do those between Tenerife and Gran Canaria, and then continue training crew until March of 2022. Once we’re fully operational, we’ll sell spots to the public for dives off the coast of Tenerife. And we will do a grand opening event in March.”

“Then come late summer of ’22, we will do a mission with the Spanish Oceanographic Institution in the Mediterranean, studying deep coral among several other targets. And there will be a few open spots for sale to the public, as well. Our mission from Peru to Antarctica has also been delayed until the end of 2022 – early 2023. It has been rough getting through Covid.”

And in December of 2021, Scott emailed: “We just finished our last mid water trial to 1000 m yesterday. It was amazing! We were in rough seas with 2m high waves (6 feet) but the sub handled perfectly, although a lot of my employees were sea sick. We have planned on the final deepwater test to be on Dec 15-17, but the ship just cancelled on us until February which puts us scrambling to find another ship. Unfortunately, there are not many OSV ships here.

After the certification we are planning tourism dives for the spring and summer. We are then planning on shipping to Peru in the fall for a series of missions including the Antarctica mission. As for the grand opening here in Tenerife, we are chartering a 44-passenger tourist submarine to take guests on a dive where Pisces VI will be waving at them sitting on the bottom!

Recently, in February of 2022, Scott sent me this update: “We have completed our sea trials and now have insurance and are in full operation mode finally! We are currently doing maintenance on the vehicle for the next few weeks, then are starting back up with continued training for our operations staff. We have signed an agreement with the Spanish Oceanographic Institution and are planning to do some diving as early as this spring on an active subsea volcano. We are currently waiting on the maritime authority to grant our permissions to operate commercially in Spanish water, however we now have the insurance in place that allows us to dive almost anywhere in the world.

September 2022 Update and Al’s 93rd birthday:

Recently I was delighted to get an email that Scott was coming to Vancouver to spend some time with friends. That visit coincided with an early 93rd birthday lunch with Al Trice. There were some good Pisces stories traded, for sure!

Scott told us that Pisces VI was just back from a mission in Lebanon. “It was with the Lebanese Navy, so there was a ton of military support. There were guys with machine guns, and we traveled in caravans with grenade launchers! We worked from a giant work barge with a 100-ton crane. The challenge for us was a high sea state for two days when we couldn’t safely launch the submersible. The job was to dive and document the sinking of a 10-m refugee boat that was meant to hold six people, but the human traffickers had packed 84 on board. The Lebanese Navy spotted them of the coast and were trying to tell the boat to turn around. Instead, the captain of the refugee boat rammed the Navy boat, causing his own boat to capsize. As a result, 32 people died. The Navy wanted an investigation to clarify what happened. So, our job was to dive down in Pisces and photograph the sunken boat. You could clearly see what had happened (and that the Navy’s account was correct). We also held a ceremony for the 32 who died at sea. That captain is now in jail and the Lebanon District Attorney is prosecuting the case.”

At the bottom of the patch for that Lebanon mission, the Arabic script (read right to left) says “In honour of those who were lost.”

The crew finished up that job on Sept 2 and shipped out. Pisces VI is now on its way to Peru. And from there it will go to Chile and then on to Antarctica for a scientific expedition diving on the Orca seamount. It’s located in the Bransfield Strait, an ocean channel between the Antarctic Peninsula and the southern tip of Argentina. In 2020, a swarm of more than 85,000 earthquakes was recorded at this inactive, deepsea volcano. The top of the Orca seamount is at a depth of 900 meters with a 3 km diameter crater!

“After Peru and Antarctica, we’ll ship Pisces VI back to the Canaries where the company is based (and registered as a Spanish company),” Scott continues. “We are getting a permit to dive in a protected area there on an active volcano! We’re working with the Spanish Oceanographic Institute; they’re building a brand-new 90+ m research ship.

Scott is also working to put together a facility to train fulltime submersible pilots. “We want to develop a simulator that will handle 80% of the training. As far as I know there’s only been two of those ever built before.” His company and an independent team of experts has already spent nearly two years putting together an in-depth training manual that covers the skills needed by various technical positions as well as pilots. “I also believe in the value of having several different instructors. I certainly learned different things from each of the four instructors I had when I was learning to fly.” Scott notes, “There aren’t that many subsea pilots who work real missions, but they’re definitely an interesting breed of guys. We’re all successful and we all love what we do!” Currently, Scott is the only fully certified pilot for Pisces VI, with two others working on completing their certification. “We’ve got a great team,” he says, “but it takes a lot of time to train pilots to pilot the sub and run the manipulator.”

Al added one of many Pisces stories:

“When we first started with Pisces I, we never even had a checklist. One time, an Aluminaut pilot came to visit so we took him up to Jervis Inlet to go out on Pisces.”

“Where’s your checklist?” he asked.

“We don’t have one,” I told him. “We just close the hatch and dive!”

“Those were real cowboy days,” Scott says with amazement.

“Yeah, we were just figuring it out,” confirms Al. “Talk about shithouse luck.”

Speaking of luck and good timing, Scott told us that during the refit of Pisces VI, the crew needed some syntactic foam for the submersible to replace the loss of the tail sphere that was missing when he bought the sub. But that type of foam was really expensive. “We got lucky and met a Navy commander, just as the Navy was ready to scrap Deep Quest. So, we were able to recycle some syntactic foam with a depth rating of 2000 m! That really helped us and also kept it out of the landfill.”

Al laughed and added, “We made our own foam. It had a few problems!”

Pisces VI & Taurus

The talk switches to equipment and Scott explains that Pisces VI currently uses four Copenhagen subsea thrusters (2 vertical and 2 horizontal). “They are rim driven, and the lack of a central shaft allows for less entanglement hazard and quieter operation.” He adds that Pisces VI still has her original ballast tanks (32” fore and aft) and the original HYCO 6-function manipulator. Depth certification for the submersible is 2180 m. “We use Imagenics’ 881L-GS sonar. It’s gyro-stabilized and is just great!”

Then the talk shifts to other HYCO vehicles and Scott tells Al that after years of being in South Africa, Taurus has been sold to someone in Alabama. Al adds, “Tauras was our biggest sub—53,000 lbs.”

Other Subsea Folks

The conversation also shifts to others in the subsea business. Scott has gotten to know Pat Hickey well and has worked with him on an expedition on the Atlantis ship in Costa Rica. After 25 years of work at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and over 650 dives in the DSV Alvin as well as 15 years in the offshore oil industry, Pat now operates Hickey Underwater Vehicle Consulting. “He’s a wealth of knowledge,” Scott says with clear admiration. Some years ago, Pat talked about the value of manned submersibles, stating, “Despite all the unmanned robotics being invented and marketed, scientists still want to go down and see for themselves. That’s the value and importance of submersibles like Alvin.”

Scott also met Randy Holt, another Alvin pilot, when Scott’s company contracted with him for help with installing the electrical in Pisces VI. Randy is currently the DSV Alvin expedition leader for Woods Hole.

Footnote: Scott’s has long been compiling info about the work that Pisces VI has done. But he has this particular question: “Does anyone happen to know any of the dives on Pisces VI after dive number 286 (perhaps in personal logs?). I am most interested in dive info during the Bebee expedition in 1986-1987 which were the last dives. I’ve searched a lot with no luck so far. Hopefully somebody else might know.” (Can anybody help Scott out?)

Scott’s Collection of Patches: Not only does Scott collect info about Pisces VI, he’s also an avid collector of patches from a wide variety of subsea patches.

 Scott’s interest in collecting patches began in 2019 when he and the sub were ready to leave for Canada. We did an unveiling ceremony at the Salina airport in Kansas, to thank the city and all the people who had helped us. I sent invitations out to all the HYCO staff and others although most couldn’t make it.

Tim Marzolf drove from Texas to Kansas to attend the unveiling of Pisces VI in 2019. He was a previous pilot of PVI and had dived on Pisces VI on the 1986-1987 William Beebee expedition off the coast of Bermuda. He handed me an original patch from that mission–that was my first! Nat Geo made a film “Half a Mile Down” of that expedition. Scott adds that Dr. Eugenie Clark did much of her 6-gill shark research on Pisces VI.

As a young kid, Scott achieved Eagle Scout status, and generations of his family have a long history of Boy Scouting, as well. Tim Marzoff also had a connection to the Boy Scouts. Only he had achieved the adult Wood Badge designation that includes instruction in how to teach leadership. There’s also a service project component to that badge. Tim’s project was to take the Mermaid submersible, restore it, and donate it to the Boy Scout Sea Base in Islamorada, Florida. (Mermaid was built in Germany, rated to 1,200 ft and did oil work.) Ironically, years later Scott worked at that same Scout Sea Base. He recalls that on his days off he used to love to sit in that sub.

Here are some of the new patches that Scott Waters has created for the launch/training operations of Pisces VI. But he still dreams of finding one of the early Pisces patches.Scott now has some 30 patches, including one from all of the Pisces VI missions and says “most have a cool story connected with them.” The first patch he got from a Perry sub (PC-8b) came in exchange for some non-skid tape that Scott mailed to the Bulgarian pilot Iliya Shtirkov. That patch is hand sewn by the pilot’s wife.

One of his favourite patches is from his Japanese buddy Takuma Onishi, one of two pilots for Japan’s Shinkai 6500 (the other is female). Takuma doesn’t speak English but Scott knows a smattering of Japanese, so when the two met at an Underwater Intervention conference, Scott tried out a few of his Japanese phrases and the two became instant friends. Recently Scott heard from Takuma who related a recent dive on Victor Vescova’s Limiting Factor, a full-depth ocean submersible built by Triton. As a result, he’s now sporting a new 5-Deeps patch in honour of the sub’s trip to the five deepest places in the world’s oceans. He also wears a Pisces VI patch traded with Scott for a Shinkai 6500 one.

Scott also recalled a great hour-long call with Booker Washington who was the manager for all the dives of Pisces VI after IUC bought the submersible. At the time, he was one of the very few African-Americans working in the subsea tech world. He shared many memories with Scott.

A note from John Witney about HYCO collectables

Speaking of collectables, John Witney confirmed that HYCO did produce patches many years ago. Alas, he has no duplicates, but he did send along this photo from his own collection.

John adds that HYCO also collected postcards from interested parties, took the cards on a dive, stamped them with the dive number and date, etc., then returned them to the interested party. He recalls that Tom Roberts took a lead on this.

After hearing that, I wondered if anyone might still have one of these “Pisces postcards,” thinking that it would be great to share a photo of one of them. Then two days before Christmas I got a most amazing letter in the mail from Tom Roberts. He had put together a facsimile for a typical “One Half Fathom” cover envelope for me. What a Christmas present!

Tom added that he’d searched his home office for a blue binder that included some copies of the One Half Fathom (OHF) newsletter, but he couldn’t find it. He adds that it’s possible he left that binder behind at the Atlantis office when he retired.

(Now I’m wondering if anyone might still have any copies of any of the OHF newsletters?)

While it’s taken months to pull together this Pisces VI saga, it was truly a delightful challenge. My thanks to all of those who contributed. If you have further info, corrections or comments, please forward them to me at

Thanks, too, for passing the word about the website to others who might be interested.

Warm wishes to you all for a healthy new year! Please do keep in touch, Vickie

Vickie Jensen
3036 Waterloo Street
Vancouver, B.C. V6R 3J6
Cell: 604-506-0824

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