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Tribute to Dr Bruce Wienke

SuuntoDive — 25 February 2020

Dr Wienke’s legacy lies at the heart of each Suunto dive computer still being used today by every Suunto diver as he continues to keep divers safer in the water.

It is with great sadness that we announce the news that our beloved Dr Bruce Wienke, a true pioneer in his field of dive specific algorithm design, has passed away leaving behind a great legacy.

A keen diver, and downhill skier, Dr Wienke’s interest in diving was reflected in his achievements, and great success as seen in his accolades. His astonishing CV included Instructor Trainer and Technical Instructor with NAUI, a Master Instructor with PADI, Institute Director for YMCA, and an Instructor Trainer/Technical Instructor for SDI/TDI.

“Most of the diving I have done has always been interesting and exciting.  To my Australian friends, diving the Great Barrier Reef was incredible.  Another favourite place is diving underneath the Arctic ice.  It is just amazing; the water is cold of course, but it is just amazing.  It is so clear, and perhaps because of the overhead ice and the associated underwater activity it’s like diving in a three dimensional surrealistic world. It is fantastic, and contrary to what you might think there is a variety of life down there.  Very cool.” Dr Bruce Wienke. 

Dr Wienke joined Suunto in the late 90’s, where he hit the ground running and didn’t stop. The collaboration arose after some of his diving work published on core screen modelling in the open literature and was noticed by Ari Nikkola who was at the time presiding over the inhouse the algorithm development at Suunto.

Employing his great expertise in the diving specific algorithm field, he joined Ari Nikkola in the development of the revolutionary Reduced Gradient Bubble Model (RGBM).

The RGBM, a name first coined by Dr Wienke, is a dual phase approach to staging diver ascents over an extended range of diving applications (altitude, nonstop, decompression, multiday, repetitive, multilevel, mixed gas, and saturation) and a giant stride forward from previous modified Haldanean decompression models.

Prior to joining the Suunto family, Dr Wienke was a Program Manager in the Nuclear Weapons Technology Simulation and Computing Office at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) where he completed research up until his death.  As head of the LANL Nuclear Counter Measures Dive Team involving Special Warfare Units both above and below the water, he trained alongside the special forces well into his 70s.

His interests were in computational decompression models, gas transport, and phase mechanics.   He was the author of five monographs on his field, as well as more than 200 technical journal articles and was an active contributor to underwater symposia, educational publications, technical periodicals and decompression workshops.

Alongside his high achieving work life, he served actively as a consultant for decompression algorithms within the dive industry and he worked with Divers Alert Network, DAN, on applications of high performance computing and communications for diving.

Wienke’s first Suunto dive computer releases were the Vyper and Cobra in 1999, which is still accompanying divers all over the world on their underwater adventures, shortly followed by the iconic, best-selling Suunto Stinger dive computer.  With his continued support, Suunto together with Dr Wienke, using his own source code, created the Technical RGBM.  Now including helium gas, and rated to a depth of 120m, the Suunto HelO2 and D9tx opened the door to the technical dive market.   A major new release in 2012 from Dr Wienke saw the Suunto Fused RGBM which combined the Full RGBM and the Technical model.  Greatly benefiting both the recreational and technical diver, the algorithm now supported rebreathers, and new depths were conquered with a 150m rating.  The Suunto Fused™ RGBM 2 can be found in the latest releases, the Suunto Eon Series and the D5.  The algorithm manages dissolved gas and free-gas in both the tissues and blood of a diver making it significantly smarter than any previous models.  Dr Wienke described this algorithm as a supermodel.

Dr Bruce Wienke was a widely regarded and respected figure of the dive industry, and he will be by missed all his Suunto family.  He died on Saturday 15th February 2020, and is survived by his wife, Annie.