A Life Amphibious

Neos Kosmos meets Australian submariner extraordinaire Lloyd Godson as he prepares for his new year Odyssean adventure.

The island of Ithaca has long been associated with extraordinary voyages. Last September Odysseus’ mythical home became the target destination (from Kefalonia) for Albury-born Lloyd Godson. Not a major distance (15 nautical miles) for the ferries that ply between the Ionian islands, but aquanaut and marine biologist Godson retraced Ulysses’ strokes in a different vessel entirely – a one man self-propelled submarine.

Living for twelve days in a small steel capsule submerged in a flooded gravel pit, and using algae soaked in his own urine to produce the oxygen he needed to survive, isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but then Lloyd’s not your average New South Welshman.

‘Life Amphibious’ is the name of Godson’s remarkable ongoing project that blends seafaring adventure and marine environment education, with high-tech innovation. Godson’s fascination for a life amphibious began a long way from the sea. Lloyd lived in Albury before making his home in Athens.

He made headlines around the world in 2007 when he won Australian Geographic’s $50,000 “Live Your Dream – Wildest Adventure’ Competition. This involved living underwater in a lake near Albury in his ‘BioSub’ – the world’s first underwater habitat with a plant-based life support system.

Living for twelve days in a small steel capsule submerged in a flooded gravel pit, and using algae soaked in his own urine to produce the oxygen he needed to survive, isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but then Lloyd’s not your average New South Welshman.

I caught up with Lloyd in Athens at the launch of his 2010 project. ‘The BioSub project was about wanting to provide children with a once in a lifetime educational experience that would make a lasting impression. It was also about fulfilling my own childhood dream of living underwater.

The motivation behind ‘Life Amphibious’, developed with his Athenian born wife Carolina, is to get young people excited about science, and protecting the marine environment. After BioSub they came up with a distinctly Greek project, to retrace the last leg of Homer’s Odyssey, by pedaling a human powered submarine through the Ionian Sea.

On the Kefalonia to Ithaca trip. Lloyd pedalled seven metres below the surface in the ‘Omer 6’ submarine. The sub, custom built in Quebec by the Ecole de Technologie Superieure, uses biology inspired technologies that imitate the propulsion of sea creatures. ‘It’s a bit like how a penguin swims’ says Lloyd as he ‘opens the bonnet’ of torpedo-like Omer 6, a cross between a sports toboggan, and flattened bicycle. ‘When I pedal, my cycle motion is turned into an up and down motion, much like a stingray flapping its wings.’ And pedaling is certainly something Lloyd does in spades. He’s a fit, wiry young man full of infectious enthusiasm.

Sponsorship has been crucial to getting the Greek ‘Life Amphibious’ projects off the ground, or should that be ‘underwater’? The notable Aussie supporters being the Australian Geographic Society, and Brisbane seafood market ‘Samies Girl’. The John S. Latsis Foundation has been the main supporter in Greece.

2010 sees the second and ever more ambitious phase of the ‘Life Amphibious’ project. In March, Lloyd will travel to Germany to undertake a second BioSub project near Munich, and attempt to set a new world record for generating pedal-powered energy whilst living underwater.

In August, it’s back to Ioanian waters with a second submarine journey to Ithaca; this time embarking from Corfu. Second time around Lloyd will attempt the much more technically challenging 100 nautical miles in a new two-seater sub ‘Omer 7’ ‘I’m hoping to go to Canada soon to work with the manufacturers to prepare the sub and carry out sea trials. With a likely speed of 4 knots, the journey between Corfu and Ithaca should take about 24 hours in all.’

Once again sponsorship will be crucial for the successful outcome of the project. ‘We’re looking for help with chartering the support boat, fuel, food and transportation of the submarine to and from Canada.’ With Lloyd’s pioneering projects highlighting some of today’s most important global environment issues, supporting his Life Amphibious is surely money well spent.

For more information on Lloyd and his undersea adventures, have a look at the ‘Life Amphibious Promo’ on YouTube and www.lifeamphibious.com.