It’s fitting that the week of the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ classic song, Yellow Submarine, John Fugelsang decided to take his yellow (well, gold) submersible out to “live beneath the waves” for four hours. He experienced “life in the land of submarines,” broadcasting his radio show from 1,002 feet below sea level. To accomplish this feat, Fugelsang partnered with Nekton Mission, an organization focused on bringing attention to the health of the deep ocean through exploration and science. And in the process, Fugelsang set a new record for the world’s deepest under sea live radio show.
The idea for SiriusXM Deep Dive Radio came to life when Fugelsang interviewed Oliver Steeds, Nekton’s co-founder and mission director, in January. Following their on-air conversation, the two started chatting and came up with a crazy idea: to host a radio show from Nekton’s submersibles. Fugelsang joked that just when you thought he couldn’t sink any lower, he decided to broadcast from the depths of the ocean.
On Aug. 8, 2016, their idea became reality.
As the sun began to rise off the coast of Bermuda, the SiriusXM team boarded the Baseline Explorer to make radio history. On the ground level of the ship, family breakfast was served — a feast of eggs, sausage, potatoes and homemade gravy (and lots of coffee) prepared by the talented chef Scott Spalding and cook Greg Whitehead.
Then it was off to the upper deck for a discussion about the logistics behind the dive. There were two dives scheduled for the day: a test run to check the status of all the equipment in the early hours of the morning followed by the main dive, where the actual broadcast would take place. Initially, Fugelsang had planned to partake in both. However, for logistical purposes, the Nekton team decided that Fugelsang should sit out of the test run, and instead increased the duration of the main dive to four hours. Because of the scheduling change, the team had to come up with a very important solution about when to eat lunch.
Surprisingly, it does not take that much equipment to make broadcast history. Three separate pieces were transported from New York to Bermuda (pictured to the right). Producers Neil Golub and Xorje Olivares tested the connection during the test dive and deemed everything as functional and ready to go. But the real moment of truth took place when it was finally time for Tell Me Everything’s record-breaking broadcast.
For the main dive, two submersibles named Nemo and Nomad made the journey to 1,000 feet below sea level. Nomad was piloted by Randy Holt of Project Baseline and co-piloted by Steeds. Kelvin MaGee of Triton Subs took the reigns in Nemo alongside Fugelsang for perhaps one of the most unique dives of his career (MaGee estimates he’s made the plunge at least 300 times, which was reassuring to his newbie passenger).
Around 12 p.m. ET, Fugelsang prepared for his adventure in the deep blue sea, saying he was “very, very calm.” He also planned to judge the trip as successful “as long as [he didn’t] pass out or vomit in [his] own mouth.”
And then they were off. The producers and crew gathered on the top deck to communicate with the submersibles as they descended to 1,000 feet. (Fun fact: Do you know what differentiates a submersible from a submarine? A submarine is capable of functioning as an independent entity, while a submersible needs a mother ship like the Baseline Explorer.)
At 2 p.m. ET the broadcast began. The two submersibles chatted with each other about the darkness at their depth, which Fugelsang described as “sort of like in a New York City bar before Bloomberg banned smoking.” Back on the ship, the show’s sidekick Frank Conniff aka TV’s Frank called down, jokingly placing an order for fries (the audio sounded a bit like a fast food drive through) since they needed communicate by saying “over” at the end of each thought.
After a quick but solvable technical difficulty, Fugelsang talked with famous friends including David Crosby, Lewis Black, Rod Roddenberry and Mark Hamill. Fugelsang was quick to point out that “this represents the first time we’ve had the holy trinity of Star Wars, Star Trek and Mystery Science Theater on the same radio broadcast.” So history was made in more ways than one.
Back on the boat, Fugelsang raved about the transformation and beauty of the color blue at the various depths and proclaimed he was ready to do it again. Maybe in the future, they’ll even accept MetroCards on submersibles as a new way to commute to work.
Deep Dive Radio aired on SiriusXM Insight Ch. 121