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Flying high by diving to the deep
Marketing and PR pro Karen Rubin Hawkes '86 is getting the word out on her husband's visionary deep-sea navigation inventions
|by Rebecca Costello|
Karen and Graham Hawkes
When Hawkes Ocean Technologies launched DeepFlight I, the prototype for the
world's first winged micro-submersible vehicle, in 1996, the project received
as much press coverage as John Glenn's return to space flight. The media
flocking to this small organization with truly big ideas were shepherded by
Karen Rubin Hawkes '86, the company's vice president of marketing and
Karen's husband and business partner, engineer/inventor Graham Hawkes, is arguably the most well-known and prolific creator of deep-sea vehicles. "Graham's idea is to make the deep ocean accessible for human beings -- for science, research and other things." Telling the story of Hawkes Ocean Technologies' achievements has been Karen's part of the equation for the last six years.
H.O.T.'s vehicles differ from conventional submersibles. Rather than slowly sinking down and floating up using a ballast system, they are quickly powered down from the surface and operate on the principles of dynamic wing forces and flight control. In this way, H.O.T.'s submersibles can cover a lot of territory very quickly. In addition, current conventional models are huge, with cockpits like airplanes, and because they're tied to mother-ships, schedules are outlined years in advance. The H.O.T. microsubmer-sibles can be shipped on a truck or plane and launched anytime, from any ship, or towed with a Zodiac, making the operations much more economical.
"DeepFlight I proved that we could fly in the water, and also that Graham could shrink the controls down."
Next came WetFlight, built specifically for the IMAX ride film Dolphins: The Ride. "They asked us to make a submersible that the cameraman could fly through the water and film from the point of view of a dolphin."
One of Graham's other, earlier, designs, the DeepRovers, inspired a mock submersible that H.O.T. built for the feature film Sphere -- the sub that Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone and Samuel L. Jackson used to escape from the ocean bottom.
"We're now trying to raise $10 to $20 million so we can build the full ocean-depth vehicle. We call it Ocean Everest because the Mariana Trench is as far down in the ocean as Mount Everest is high." And while the ultimate destination is this deepest point of the ocean, 7 miles down, mid-ocean depths where most sea life can be found, at 14,000 to 20,000 feet, are a focus as well. "It's a very public program and we think that corporate sponsors would be interested. We just need to find the time to get them on board."
Supporting the dream
Because it's not a commercial company, the H.O.T. ventures have always been supported through other endeavors. Graham spent eight years (Karen was involved in the last two) scouting for deep water shipwrecks and uncovered more than 350 modern and ancient vessels. The recovery of their last find, the Royal Captain in the Philippines, was completed by French archaeologist Frank Goddio and recently appeared on the Discovery Channel.
Three years ago the couple founded Precision Remotes Inc., which builds and markets Graham's design of the first remotely operated system that can carry a weapon, surveillance lens or motion sensor. The product is intended for military and police use to keep personnel out of the line of fire. Their current customers are the U.S. military, some foreign governments and U.S. government agencies.
Underwater flight school
"It will be a bit like one of the high-end adventure trips you see in Outside magazine," Karen explains. While riding in one of her husband's creations was previously not feasible, she looks forward to being one of Graham's first pupils next summer.
"Graham and I do everything together, which I guess says nice things about our working relationship. We enjoy the same recreational activities. The kids (Oliver, 2 1/2, and Madeleine, 1) throw in an interesting challenge, but we just take them along and keep a close eye on them."
"Who knows where underwater exploration and aviation is going to lead to?" asks Karen Hawkes of their underwater flight school invention. "When the Wright Brothers were fooling around with their plane, did they think that airplanes were going to be what they are today? I don't know if we'll see it in our lifetimes." Perhaps in Oliver and Madeleine's.
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