Legends of Diving Articles

 

Dr. R.W. Hamilton
Breathing Gases, Gas Tables
and effects of Pressure


Dr RW Hamilton giving a lecture

Dr. Hamilton, along with his colleagues, developed many types of decompression procedures for a wide variety of diving situations, including exposures to pressure and ranging from submarine free ascent to space travel to deep commercial diving. His research included detailed instructions for treatment of decompression sickness. His work evolved into a comprehensive computer program, called DCAP, which provided decompression tables used by NOAA, NASA, the Norwegian Underwater Institute, U.S. Navy Labs, Karolinska Institute, archaeological research projects, commercial operations, accident analysis, altitude diving projects, and other special operations.

Hamilton worked as a scientist and director of the environmental physiology and dieting research laboratory at the Union Carbide Research Center in Tarrytown, NY for 10 years. Then, in 1976, he developed his own private company, Hamilton Research Limited. There he developed an assessment of decompression and operating procedures for commercial, scientific, recreational, and military diving, for tunnel and caissons work, and for aerospace and hyperbaric medicine, both in the US and internationally. He also worked on safety and operational planning, technical training programs, market surveys and successful collaboration with attorneys as consultant and an expert witness.

Hamilton also served as a consultant and advisor to NOAA's Aquarius see-floor habitat project, and produced decompression tables for use with and for evacuating the habitat. He prepared trimix tables for NOAA's research on the USS Monitor, and this led to his production of a set of trimix tables for the NOAA diving program.

In 1970, while still at Ocean Systems, Dr. Hamilton lost his first wife Beverly. While taking an Eastern Airlines shuttle some time later, he met Kathryn Faulkner in a chance meeting. She ended up playing a pivotal role in his life, becoming his wife and the mother of his children, as well as managing his business. Bill affectionately referred to her as "Ruby Lips" and the two shared a partnership and marriage that lasted over 40 years. He trusted her implicitly, used her as a sounding board for his ideas, and had her manage all of the business aspects of his research including finance, contracts, calendar, travel and social events. She was always at his side and remained so until his death.


Dr RW Hamilton

The largest contribution to the diving community by Hamilton Research Limited was the development of the diving computational analysis program (DCAP). DCAP was co-developed with David J. Kenyon and is a comprehensive computer program that could analyze and develop decompression procedures and schedules for a wide variety of exposures to pressure, including submarine escape, space travel, deep commercial diving, caisson and tunnel work and free swimming technical diving. The program did nothing short of revolutionize decompression analysis. With this program, Hamilton Research Limited worked with countries and organizations throughout the world. Dave Kenyon is currently completing a new and original dive computer DCAP-X, which incorporates the original DCAP computational program.

Dr. Hamilton became the principal investigator and scientist in the creation of the NOAA Repex oxygen exposure tables. These tables are used today with every oxygen exposure calculation method for saturation and repetitive exposures to oxygen in breathing mixtures. Because of this breakthrough, Hamilton was contacted by diving equipment companies which were the manufacturers of dive computers and rebreathers.

In the late 1980's, Hamilton promoted cave diving for recreational divers; for decades only military and commercial divers had access to mixed gases for such dive operations. Recreational divers were clamoring to go deeper and stay longer in exploration of wrecks and caves. Hamilton knew that they would do so at great risk if he did not get involved and provide technical support. So he sat down and developed a set of decompression tables for extreme cave dives into Florida's Wakulla systems. These dives went to a depth of 328 feet with standard scuba gear with managed oxygen exposure and minimal nitrogen narcosis. The project was a success. By being involved and censoring his critics, he opened a new world of underwater exploration for the diving community. This was the birth of technical diving.

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