The New Jersey–born Ciamillo, who amassed a fortune designing and manufacturing exceptionally light and powerful aluminum bicycle brakes, has spent the past few years building a 15-foot, two-ton personal submarine with a Lunocet-like tail and perfecting it in his man-made lagoon. Come November 2009, he’ll attempt to pilot it 3,000 miles from Florida to the African coast entirely under his own power. Pedaling in a recumbent-bike position, Ciamillo anticipates traveling up to six miles an hour, six feet below the surface, breathing through a special snorkel or, for deeper dives, a scuba system. A support boat will trail him at a distance. He’s dubbed this endeavor the Subhuman Project.
If successful, the stunt will break some 15 records. But he freely admits that it’s designed to promote the commercial line of his super-flipper. He’ll have a Lunocet along for exploratory dives away from the sub, to commune with a whale or a pod of dolphins.
Fresh from his black lagoon, Ciamillo warmed himself by a blazing fire and explained how anyone could expect to pedal, underwater, across the Atlantic and live to tell the tale.
ADVENTURE: How fast were you swimming just now?
Ted Ciamillo: I’d say somewhere around seven, maybe eight miles an hour. It’s hard to sustain that pace, but, OK, here’s an example: I tested the Lunocet in the ocean off Holbox Island, Mexico. I strapped it on and cruised beside a whale shark for nearly three hours. The boat trailing me had to speed ahead of it, drop off divers, pick them up, and speed ahead again. No one had ever been able to silently swim next to a whale shark like I did.
A: What makes this fin superior to all others?
TC: It uses principles of biomimetics—that is, adapting designs from nature to work with our own bodies. I basically took a dolphin tail and made it work with our legs.
A: It’s a pretty pricey piece of equipment. Who’s this fin for?
TC: It’s getting a lot of interest from free divers, but I see it as something much, much bigger. It allows you the freedom of scuba diving without all the expensive gear and hassle.
A: What’s the thing made of?
TC: Originally, titanium. But now we’re mass-producing them out of carbon fiber and fiberglass. The sub, too, uses pretty lightweight materials combined with titanium and high-grade aluminum. Out of the water, it only weighs 800 pounds.