Robert Pierre André Sténuit is a writer, journalist and deep-sea archeologist, but the public knows him for being the first and perhaps the most famous aquanaut of the world. In 1962, he climbed into a special, submersible vehicle called the “Link Cylinder” and dived in it to spend 24 hours on the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea; but this is not the only endeavor that makes him famous.
Robert Pierre André Sténuit developed a passion for history and diving at an early age. Fascinated by the treasures that he believed were buried on old shipwrecks, he spent years searching for such old wrecks – without success, though, for he found only modern wrecks in the waters he explored. He was also passionate about finding a way to create new habitats for men – this passion brought about his participation in the Man in Sea experiment in the Link Cylinder mentioned above, submersible decompression chamber.
He became involved in shipwreck explorations and underwater archeology in general in the early 1960’s. In 1968 he created the Group for Underwater Post-Medieval Archaeological Research, also known as GRASP and he and his team explored as many as 17 wrecks of merchant ships and warships sunk between the 16th and 19th century. His most important discoveries as a passionate explorer of the deepest waters of the World’s Seas are:
- in 1967, he recovered the treasures of the galleass Girona, a ship that was part of the Invincible Armada (Sténuit was always fascinated by the Armada and he conducted several expeditions to find ships that belonged to the 16th century Spanish fleet);
- in 1975, he recovered large quantities of silver and gold coins from the Slot ter Hooge, a ship that wrecked as far back in time as 1724 just off Madeira Islands;
- in 1977, he conducted an expedition to explore the wrecks of the Witte Leeuw, a merchant ship that carried Ming porcelain and spices.
Sténuit is the author of several books on underwater archeology and diving – great, scientifically backed and masterfully written works that have been translated to several languages. Despite his old age, Robert Pierre André Sténuit continues to be active as an underwater archeologist and oceanographer. His interest is currently directed towards the ships owned by the East India Company, and he continues his activity as the director of GRASP as well.