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About Us

Dr. James Cairns
Founder & Executive Director, The Cairns Foundation

Dr. Cairns is a physicist, oceanographer, and lifelong inventor. His experience with underwater connectors began in 1964 working on a US Navy oceanographic research tower offshore of San Diego. His predecessor on the tower, Art Nelson, invented the world’s very first wet-mate electrical connectors (now commonly known as EO Connectors). Jim spent several years diving from the Navy’s platform to deploy, recover and repair subsea instrument arrays connectorized with hundreds of Nelson’s wet-mates, early versions of which were notoriously unreliable. That dangerous, grueling work led Jim to the idea of removing the point of contact of subsea connectors out of corrosive, conductive seawater as had always previously been done, and into a pressure-balanced chamber of dielectric oil. He patented the world’s first oil-filled, pressure-balanced underwater connectors in 1968, and has subsequently been granted more than sixty US patents on subsea electrical and fiber-optic interconnect devices, many of which are based on the oil-filled principle. Toward the end of his work on the research tower, Jim became a graduate student at Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) working alongside his graduate advisor and mentor, world renown oceanographer Walter Munk.

Dr. Cairn’s most successful inventions have been components for subsea fiber-optic and electrical communication networks. He licensed his early inventions, and later co-founded two significant companies. The first company, Challenger Marine Connectors focusing on multi-pass all-electrical wet-mates, was sold to Lockheed Corp. (now Lockheed-Martin) in the 1980’s. The second company Jim formed, Daytona Beach based Ocean Design, Inc., pioneered and produced both Nautilus electrical connectors, optical connectors, and hybrid (electro-optical) high voltage, multi-pass wet-mate connectors. ODI was sold in 2009 to Teledyne Instruments, Inc..

While Jim continues to innovate and invent, in recent years he has devoted a considerable portion of his time to helping inspire the next generation(s) of would-be inventors. He has authored two books on the subjects of inventing and successfully marketing intellectual property, and is a frequent invited speaker at area universities. In 2003 Dr. Cairns established The Cairns Foundation, a charitable organization supporting innovation by creative students.

Jim has received several prestigious awards for his contributions to marine science and technology, including:

  • The Marine Technology Society’s Compass Distinguished Achievement Award (2003)
  • The Marine Technology Society’s Lockheed Martin Award for Excellence in Marine Science and Engineering (2005)
  • Inducted into The Offshore Energy Center Hall of Fame for his pioneering work in subsea technology (2017)
  • Nominated into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2023
  • Inducted into the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame in 2023

Dr. Cairn’s advances in subsea interconnect technology have allowed offshore systems to be constructed in profound ocean depths, greatly expanding the global area available for offshore energy and security. Over the past ten years, Jim has been developing what could be transformative and disruptive new elements in the realm of underwater connectors. He firmly believes that his latest innovations, the Pontus family of simple, lower-cost, high-reliability wet-mate connectors will fill a much-needed void in this ever-evolving market.

Dr. Andrew M Clark
Partner, Pontus Subsea Connectors

Pontus Partner Andrew “Andy” Clark began his maritime career in 1973 in the offshore oilfields of the Gulf of Mexico. In 1979, he was awarded a scholarship by famed inventor Edwin A Link (undersea explorer and father of flight simulation) coming to work for Ed at his Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Florida. Andy would succeed Ed as Director of Research & Development there and he now serves as Trustee of The Link Foundation, that Ed founded in 1953.

Dr. Clark’s expertise is in ocean engineering and subsea instrumentation, with a career that has spanned diving, design and fabrication of manned submersibles, ROVs, and cabled fiber optic networks of sensors covering hundreds of kilometers of the deep seafloor. In 1998, Clark left Harbor Branch to found and serve as CEO of L3-Harris subsidiary Maritime Communication Services (later “Harris Caprock”) providing broadband connectivity to ships, platforms and subsea installations, the latter requiring hundreds of wet-mate connectors. In 2009, Andy left L3-Harris to found and serve as CEO of CSnet International, Inc where his team specialized in the design, fabrication, deployment and operation of large fiber optic seafloor networks to support hydrocarbon recovery and to serve as ocean observatories and seismic-tsunami early warning systems that incorporated scores of wet mate connectors developed by Jim Cairns.

Andy has received several prestigious awards for his contributions to marine science and technology, including:

  • The Marine Technology Society’s Lockheed Martin Award for Excellence in Marine Science and Engineering (2003)
  • The Marine Technology Society’s Compass – Rolex Distinguished Achievement Award (2007)
  • Inducted into The Sea-Space-Symposium and Cosmos Club (2003)
  • Elected Fellow of The Explorers Club (NYC) and MTS
  • Elected President of MTS (1998 – 2004) and VP Research Industry & Technology (2015 – 2020)
  • The John P. Craven Mentor Award (2018)

While working offshore, Dr. Clark conducted his undergraduate work in Petroleum Engineering at the Nichols State University (Thibodaux) and the University of SW Louisiana (Lafayette), received an MSc in Ocean Engineering from Florida Atlantic University and his PhD in Ocean Engineering from the University of Hawaii. He is a licensed Professional Engineer (P.E.), has authored over fifty technical and scientific publications and holds both US and International Patents on underwater vehicle design.

In addition to his work with Jim Cairns and Pontus Subsea Connectors, Andy served on both the ASME-PVHO (Pressure Vessels for Human Occupancy) Committee and the US Committee to the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC). He is a Trustee of the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT).

How Pontus Can Help You

You’re an industry leader. Our goal is to help you keep that distinction by giving you the means to bring new, disruptive connector products to market. No one has done this successfully in decades. We make it easy for your team to bring new, exciting products to market by providing the foundational technology.

We Deliver

Our innovative technology plus your market position and manufacturing capabilities equal a partnership that is destined to change the industry, increase your share of the market, and cement your position as a technology leader.

  • Revolutionary seal designs to enable a new generation of wet-mateable connectors
  • Patents
  • Product Drawings
  • Procedures
  • Tooling
  • Prototypes
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