email a friend iconprinter friendly iconThe Life: Ted Ciamillo
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A: Were you trained in biomimetics?

TC: No. I’m a machinist by training. But so were the Wright brothers. This project, and especially the submarine, has really piqued the interest of a range of scientists and engineers. It’s a pretty amazing research opportunity to have a silent submersible in the middle of the Atlantic.

A: You’ll no doubt be demonstrating that potential.

TC: I’ve got an onboard camera designed by Edie Widder at the Ocean Research & Conservation Association. I’m going to shoot video of all the strange microorganisms that rise from the seafloor at night to feed on phosphorescent algae. Mostly we’re trying to make sure every aspect is well documented because it’ll be such a first.

A: A dangerous first, it seems.

TC: I’ve done risky stuff before, just not on this scale. I designed a hydrospeeder [an underwater propulsion system] and went with photographer David Doubilet on a National Geographic expedition to Australia to film great white sharks out in open water. Doubilet had a cage built around the speeder but couldn’t control it that well. So I got in and started to—well, I basically played chicken with a great white.

A: Any worries about encountering them on this trip?

TC: A little. Actually, I built a gun that fires blanks underwater [pictured]. That should deter any overly curious visitors.

A: What about physical training?

TC: I’ve been taking a lot of cold showers.

A: Seriously?

TC: And running a lot, watching what I eat, swimming . . . but the effects of staying in the water for such a long time, day after day, that’s what really worries me.

A: You just turned 40, you’re a family man—could this be your midlife crisis?

TC: Yeah, well, it’s not so much a crisis in the "I feel I haven’t accomplished anything" sense, but rather in the sense that I want to take stock of what I have. I want to be out there, all alone, with time to think. My grandparents had a house in the Berkshires on a lake. I would spend all day at the bottom of that lake, a curious boy in a 15-foot boat channel, holding my breath for as long as I could. In many ways, I’m still that curious boy—but with more toys.

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