I was coming off a series of exhilarating diving expeditions, including a successful round of cave expeditions in Turkey and a North American penetration record in Manatee Springs…
We were also planning an aggressive range of global projects and discussing a spectrum of ideas in support of our global exploration plans. Considering this backdrop, it seemed clear we would need resources.
We needed an ongoing supply of well-trained, accomplished divers and access to a wide range of specialized dive equipment. I began considering the variety of ways we might fill these needs…
By the summer of 1996, our deep cave explorations were pushing out to 10k feet/3k meters at depths near 300 feet/90m. These dives required numerous stage and safety cylinders and it was not difficult to see the unsustainable nature of our trajectory.
The setup divers were needing setup divers, who would soon need setup divers to ferry enough gas reserves through the cave. The previous need for more resources was now developing into the need for a paradigm shift.
Commercially available closed-circuit rebreather technology was very much in its infancy and our experience with these units seemed to introduce more problems than solutions. Around this time, I would meet Robert Carmichael who was looking to produce a mechanical, semi-closed, rebreather designed by Jack Kellon.
Robert’s enthusiasm and hard-charging personality were a perfect complement to my global exploration aspirations and we forged a strong friendship and a set of ambitious goals that would soon take shape as Halcyon Manufacturing, or more commonly known as Halcyon Dive Systems today.
The founding principle at Halcyon was to enable all divers to get the most from their diving experience. We sought to accomplish this through the development of unique, quality equipment that was simple to use and enhanced individual performance.
We determined this would best be accomplished through a vertically-integrated company with design, prototype, and fabrication capacity in-house. This ability has served us well, allowing new designs to be conceived, developed, and dived in the same week or even the same day. A great many of Halcyon’s novel designs have been widely copied or emulated by the industry. Halcyon’s many equipment innovations and countless enhancements benefit from the vertically-integrated nature of the company. I remember the designs of our industry-first, donut-shaped, doubles buoyancy compensator, BC or “wing.” I would make a design in the morning and dive it that night, making adjustments the following morning and trying again that night.
Being able to make our own bladders, sew our own cases, and even make our own dyes has brought many advances and benefits in our quest to build novel designs that support explorers and passionate divers around the world.
Perhaps the hardest part of having a factory at your disposal is not abusing the privilege. Over the years, the exploration demands vary, but in some of our most active years, Halcyon managers would joke (only half kidding) that it would take the whole factory to get us in the water. This was particularly true as the exploration distances exceeded 20k feet/6k meters.
The growing demands of twenty- and then thirty-hour dives placed a stress on all involved but also led to great developments shared through the Halcyon product ecosystem. For example, there were many reasons I began working to solve the quick adjustment problem on a conventional backplate. One obvious reason is that Halcyon had steadily begun producing ever-more recreational BCs. These sales eventually exceeded those of technical systems and recreational divers wanted a way to adjust sizing of a BC system quickly.
My idea for the Cinch, quick-adjust system began to take place one day while watching a diver try to get out of their rebreather system. In order to decompress more comfortably, our cave explorers would often remove their large backmount systems and switch to a simple harness. These large rigs could be hard to remove, especially with thick layers of undergarments below the drysuit.
Watching a dive buddy thrashing about left me to ponder the problem over the subsequent hours of decompression.
These experiences and a community need, as well as a factory at my disposal, led me to play with numerous designs before settling upon the current Cinch system.
After thoroughly testing these systems, I would use them on larger and larger expedition dives.
I dived them for over a year, during a series of world record dives out to 26,000 feet/7,900 meters. In this case, the Cinch was fitted to a large RB rack with double 18L tanks, a decompression RB80 with twin 6L tanks, and a decompression harness with side-slung bottles.
A great many Halcyon products derived from the needs of passionate divers and explorers, and these developments framed the company over the last twenty years.
From our earliest explorations in Wakulla Springs, and on the Britannic in Greece, to the ongoing series of dives in the frigid waters of the Baltic or the extensive cave systems of Mexico, Halcyon products are intimately woven into the history of many exploration adventures.
Despite a growing influence in the recreational world, Halcyon remains a company dedicated to unique products and novel exploration activity. As I look toward 2020 and beyond, I’m pleased to see the growing range of projects being engaged by Halcyon divers around the world. It is with great joy that I remember the early years of development, and it is with equal pleasure that I imagine the years to come.