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Host spellbound by deepest radio show ever

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John Fugelsang and Oliver Steede, Nekton's mission director and founder (Photograph courtesy of John Fugelsang)

Fifty years ago this month, the record-breaking Beatles song Yellow Submarine hit the airwaves.

Broadcasting the deepest underwater live radio show in history last week therefore seemed fitting to American comedian John Fugelsang.

The host of Sirius XM’s Tell Me Everything teamed up with scientific research foundation Nekton to set the record off the coast of Bermuda and to highlight the need to protect the oceans.

“I’m bragging to my friends that I had the deepest conversation in radio history,” he joked. “My friends all thought I couldn’t sink any lower.

“This proves how far some people will go to get away from Donald Trump coverage. We tried to go somewhere where we wouldn’t have to hear about Donald Trump for a few hours!”

Mr Fugelsang and Oliver Steede, Nekton’s mission director and founder, hatched the idea in New York last January, although they “never thought we’d be able to make it happen”.

But on Tuesday, they were able to descend more than 1,000ft in a pair of two-man yellow submersibles to host the “deepest radio show in history”. “I’m still trying to find the right words to describe the experience, things like ‘historic’ or ‘moving’ don’t really do it justice,” Mr Fugelsang told The Royal Gazette.

“The idea was to have this record-setting event to draw attention to some of the perils facing our ocean, from acidification to the effects of trawling, to the effects of climate change and to make it a world record.”

They also wanted to come up with an entertaining and out of the ordinary way of raising awareness for Nekton’s mission to bring the health of the deep ocean to the world’s attention through exploration and science.

“We went down the side of the mountain called the Spittal,” Mr Fugelsang explained. “It was really like what I would describe a holy moment. When you’re down at a 1,000ft it is pitch-black, there is no blue in the water above us or below us.

“One gets a sense of timelessness, one gets a sense of prehistory to be in a place where humans have never set foot and to be doing a goofy radio show amid all the jocularity, it was a very moving and formidable experience for me. What struck me the most was the beauty of the colour blue, the darkness and the silence down at 1,000ft below. I asked them what was below a 1,000ft and they said ‘we don’t know, no one has gone down that deep off the side of the Spittal’.

“I was also just really surprised by how moving the experience was. It gave me both a sense of the relative insignificance of humans and the yet the incredible potential of humans at the same time.”

Mr Fugelsang ended up rewriting his introduction in the hour he was given to prepare for the broadcast. “It was so quiet — I felt like it was a great place to gather one’s thoughts and I realised that the tone of the show was going to be dictated by how it felt down there.”

The show was part of Mr Fugelsang’s daily three-hour segment and aired live on SiriusXM Insight channel 121.

Celebrity callers included actor Mark Hamill, American political comedian Lewis Black and two-time Rock n Roll Hall of Fame inductee David Crosby.

With Rod Roddenberry, son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, radioing down from the Baseline Explorer, and Frank Conniff, of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 fame, also making an appearance, the show proved a treat for science fiction fans.

“We were able to say we were representing Star Wars, Star Trek and Mystery Science Theatre 3000,” Mr Fugelsang said, adding that the show was “very well received”.

“We thought we’d use the celebrities as bait to get people to tune in and in the process let them learn a lot about our oceans, science and the mission of Nekton submarines.

“Hopefully it was informative but also really entertaining.”

And while they are already hoping to break the record, Mr Fugelsang, who spent three days on the island, said he was also looking forward to returning to Bermuda.

“I loved Bermuda. It’s such a beautiful place and the people are so wonderful. We were lucky enough to be able to see a good bit of Hamilton and I met up with some friends who were vacationing. We tried to go off the beaten path a bit and see some of the sides to Bermuda that the tourists don’t normally see. It was beautiful. I look forward to returning.”

Broadcasting from the deep: American radio host John Fugelsang and his pilot Kelvin Magee prepare to descend 1,000ft (Photograph supplied by John Fugelsang)
Broadcasting from the deep: American radio host John Fugelsang and his pilot Kelvin Magee reach 1,001ft (Photograph supplied by John Fugelsang)
(Photograph supplied by John Fugelsang)
(Photograph supplied by John Fugelsang)