tests the 4500-pound bathysphere for leaks.
submersible Alvin has made more breakthrough deep-sea
discoveries than any other sub. Vessels like Alvin
are the culmination of a long evolutionary period, during
which many brave scientist/inventors joined the quest to explore
the deep ocean.
the 1930s, a pioneering engineer named Otis Barton became
the first to find real deep-diving success with his creation
of the four-foot-in-diameter steel "bathysphere." Barton and
his partner, William Beebe, used the craft to perform a series
of dives off the coast of Bermuda, eventually reaching a record-breaking
3028 feet. Theirs was mankind's first glimpse at life far
below the ocean surface (Alan also gets a look at these remarkable
critters in Creatures of the Mid Ocean).
Beebe's astonishing descriptions read like science fiction
to the experts of the day.
bathyscaph reached the 35,000-foot Challenger deep off
in the 1930s, a Swiss balloonist named August Piccarde built
a vessel that could voyage even deeper. Unlike the bathysphere,
which had to be tethered to the surface, this larger submarine
called the bathyscaph relied on its own gasoline floatation
tank, allowing greater flexibility as well as greater depths.
But explorer Bob Ballard
found out first hand that this unwieldy vessel could also
be dangerous. During one dive, he tells Alan, he and a crew
ran into trouble near the bottom. They managed to bring the
crippled sub up in a tense, six-hour ascent.
to further technological innovations in the 1960s, smaller,
more maneuverable submersibles were created, leading to the
Alvin. Aboard this vessel, Ballard turned the world
of deep-ocean exploration on its head with the discovery of
the Galapagos vents.
Two - A Scientific Revolution