Not far from the building’s interior relics, including copper ingots from a sunken Spanish Galleon, Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City (NSWC PCD) Commander, Capt. Andrew Buduo III, and a team of volunteer Sailors painted the Man in the Sea Museum’s exterior exhibits Feb. 20 before entering for a tour of the museum’s artifacts.
“What we’re painting here are the Remote Minehunting Systems prototypes, which the Navy Base donated to the museum some time ago,” Buduo said.
Some time ago dates back to the late 70s, according to Museum Manager, Leslie Baker, who is a diver with experience in the Underwater Crime Scene Investigation (USCI) program at Florida State University. Baker’s diving background also includes diving on wrecks.
“The museum is a non-profit organization owned by the Institute of Diving, which was formed in 1977,” Baker said. “Before the museum was established at its current location in 1982, it used to reside in the lower level of a local restaurant, which doesn’t exist anymore. Long-time residents knew this dining spot as ‘The Four Winds.’”
Baker said the museum exists to preserve the history of diving, much of its heritage having originated locally at the Naval Support Activity Panama City. She said the NSWC PCD, the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center and the Navy Experimental Diving Unit (NEDU) have all contributed, quite literally, to putting ‘man in the sea.’ Baker pointed out one of the largest exterior exhibits in particular.
“Sea Lab—that big red capsule-shaped chamber displayed out front was the very first underwater habitat that people actually lived in under the ocean, and it was built right here at our Navy Base,” Baker said. “Bob Barth, a former employee at NEDU and a current member on our board of directors, was actually one of the four aquanauts who lived inside of it.”