"Mysteries of the Deep"
AIRDATE: November 26, 2002
UNCIVILIZED ENGINE OF WAR
UNCIVILIZED ENGINE OF WAR
ALDA (NARRATOR) In a quiet corner of Magnolia Cemetery
eight men are buried. One of them is Horace Hunley -
the man who gave his name, his energy, his enthusiasm,
and finally his life to an extraordinary machine. All
eight men drowned in a training accident in the submarine
H.L. Hunley. This is the Hunley today - a priceless
relic of the Civil War, but also a war grave. On February
17, 1864, four months after the training accident, a
new crew took the Hunley to sea and carried out history's
first successful submarine attack. They never returned.
It's a hot August day, 136 years after the Hunley vanished.
A few miles out from Charleston harbor, the sub is about
to re-appear. Cradled in a specially built frame, the
Hunley has been gently hoisted 30 feet from the floor
of the Atlantic. She's coming to the old Charleston
Navy Yard, and into the hands of a team of archaeologists.
The Hunley is surprisingly well preserved - probably
because soon after sinking she was covered by sediment.
The hull has about half an inch of rust and marine growth,
but the structure's sound. The interior is completely
filled with sediment. That's what the archaeologists
will go to work on.
LASCH This is all the controls for the tank area and
here's the Hunley.
ALDA God, it's really...
LASCH Can you see how small it is?
ALDA It's really small.
LASCH Isn't that your first reaction? How could people
ALDA It's so tiny. How many people were in there?
LASCH Nine men.
ALDA Nine people?
LASCH Nine men.
ALDA The confederacy wasn't the only group of people
working on submarines. At the same time, they were working
on them in the North. What do you suppose the difference
was? Why didn't they have the first successful submarine?
LASCH I think that's a great question, Alan. I think
it's, desperate times call for desperate measures. The
blockade was taking its toll, the South was in the process
where it became evident that they were starting to lose
the war. And they had to free the blockade, they had
to restart the trade in and out of Charleston. They
had to communicate with the outside world. They were
forced to it.
ALDA (NARRATOR) War became inevitable when in 1860 South
Carolina seceded from the Union, soon followed by the
five other Confederate States. Attention focused on
Fort Sumter, at the mouth of Charleston Harbor, to which
all the Union forces in the area had withdrawn. For
four months there was a stand-off. Finally Confederate
batteries opened fire, and after 34 hours the Fort surrendered.
With Sumter securely in Confederate hands, Charleston
Harbor became the South's vital strategic link to Europe.
The North set up a naval blockade - a dozen or more
warships in a ring around the harbor entrance, far enough
off shore to be out of range of shore batteries. Charleston
Harbor was fought over for the rest of the war. Fast
Confederate blockade runners attempted to race in and
out of port. The new ironclads were used by both sides,
with the Union mounting several attacks on Sumter and
the other harbor forts, but to no avail. Then in August,
1863 the South brought into Charleston, from Mobile,
Alabama, a secret weapon which they hoped would decisively
tip the balance. It was called a "torpedo fish" or "torpedo
boat." Now we call them submarines.
LASCH It's an emotional love story, too. It's got elements
for everybody. It's just phenomenal.
ALDA (NARRATOR) Warren Lasch is the Charleston businessman
who's pulled the Hunley recovery project together. In
the process he's become a Civil War expert.
LASCH The lifeblood of Charleston was its trade -- its
textiles, its cotton -- that would ship to Britain and
other trading partners. The intent of the North was
to choke Charleston with this blockade, not only from
a commercial perspective, but that also was, running
the blockade was its only way of communication with
the outside world.
ALDA Is that Fort Sumter over there?
LASCH Yes, right here, this is Fort Sumter. To the left
we have the opening to the harbor. And further to the
left over here is a lighthouse. That's called the Sullivan's
Island Light. Directly east out to sea is where the
Hunley engaged the Housatonic and sunk her.
ALDA (NARRATOR) Charleston was the Confederacy's only
east coast port, yet it was being strangled by the Union's
much more powerful navy. When the Hunley sank the USS
Housatonic, Charleston itself was coming under increasing
pressure. In the summer of 1863, Union forces had taken
Morris Island, and set up batteries which threatened
the entire harbor and the city. An enormous gun, the
"Swamp Angel," lobbed 200-pound shells into the streets.
Fort Sumter came under heavy bombardment from the new
Union positions, which were only about a mile away.
The siege of Charleston was gathering force. Several
nights a week, the Hunley - stationed on Sullivan's
Island - put to sea in an attempt to reach the blockading
ships. It was dangerous work - 13 men had already died
in her during training. And it was tough work - her
propeller was hand-cranked, so getting a few miles offshore
took hours of exhausting labor. On the night of February
14, 1864, 4 miles off Sullivan's Island, the Union sloop-of-war
Housatonic came into view. But then the Housatonic saw
LASCH General Beauregard, who was in charge of the defense
of Charleston, had said several times after the first
two crews had perished, that the Hunley was more dangerous
to its crew than it is to the enemy. So he basically
ordered the Hunley to attack on the surface, which took
away one of its big, big advantages -- its stealth.
ALDA (NARRATOR) Although she was capable of submerging
completely, the Hunley attacked semi-submerged. For
a vital few seconds, the lookout on the Housatonic was
not quite sure what he'd seen .
LASCH By the time he realized it was something that
was a threat to the Housatonic, he sounded general quarters,
but the Hunley was too close. So they couldn't lower
their cannons low enough to get an angle. So people
came on deck and started firing upon the Hunley with
small arms fire and rifles.
ALDA (NARRATOR) The Hunley jammed its torpedo, with
a harpoon tip, into the Housatonic's wooden hull. The
men backed away, then pulled a rope attached to a trigger
on the torpedo. The Housatonic sank within 3 minutes,
but with surprisingly few casualties. Five men were
killed, with the rest of the crew picked up by other
blockade ships. But what about the Hunley?
LASCH The system was that the Hunley would signal success
by flashing a blue lantern.
ALDA But that doesn't mean that they were coming back
on the surface of the water. They had some kind of periscope
LASCH No, no, they were gonna come back on the surface.
LASCH Oh, absolutely. They signaled shore with a blue
lantern. They were on the surface, opened the conning
tower and somebody signaled shore. And two different
people saw the lantern. One of them was a sentry on
Sullivan's Island that lit a campfire to guide the Hunley
to come back.
ALDA (NARRATOR) But she didn't come back. She was lost.
Until, that is, a team led by Clive Cussler, the author
and shipwreck hunter, found the sub in 1995, after 14
years of searching. Cussler used a towed magnetometer
to detect the Hunley's hull, which was completely covered
by silt. The sub was further out to sea than where the
Housatonic had sunk -- not where you'd expect her to
be if she was already on the way back. It took five
years for the plans to be completed - and the money
raised - to recover the Hunley. The big concern was
that the hull would break up while being lifted. Working
in near zero visibility, divers placed a line of slings
along the entire length, padded with plastic foam. The
slings were attached to a massive steel frame placed
over the sub. The whole assembly would then be raised
in one piece. Everything went without a hitch. Today
the Hunley lies suspended in the same slings inside
a huge tank on the dock at the Charleston Navy Yard.
When work's not underway, the tank is filled with chilled
fresh water, to wash out the salt and minimize corrosion.
Naval historians have been surprised at the Hunley's
technical sophistication. Horace Hunley, who was a wealthy
New Orleans lawyer, had pulled together a team of first
rate engineers. The hull was based on a steam boiler,
but much modified. Everything was streamlined. Rivets
were finished flush, and tapered sections were added
fore and aft. Buoyancy was regulated with two ballast
tanks, with hand pumps to alter water levels. Dive planes,
controlled by the captain, adjusted the sub's dive angle.
There was a heavy ballast keel, which could be dropped
from inside in an emergency. Although no crew ever managed
to do that. And there were two snorkel tubes, with leather
bellows, to bring in fresh air while submerged. A 20-foot
spar carried the torpedo - 135 pounds of black powder,
with a rope trigger leading back to the sub. The spar
was still attached when the sub was found, then removed
before the recovery operation.
ALDA OK close the door?
ALDA (NARRATOR) One advantage of the Hunley sitting
on the bottom for 136 years, is that advanced analytical
tools are now available. This is a state of the art
digital x-ray system.
MARDIKIAN Look at that.
ALDA Yeah, amazing.
MARDIKIAN And you're looking at something which is maybe
completely gone. The iron has left the object and gone
into the encrustation around it.
ALDA So what that means, it seems to me, is that if
you chipped away the encrustation, you would never see
MARDIKIAN It's very possible...
ALDA Because you don't get down to the threads. The
threads no longer exist.
ALDA They're now in the encrustation.
ALDA (NARRATOR) It's taken the archaeologists more than
a year to excavate the Hunley's interior - tons of silt
removed a spoonful at a time. Skeletons of all eight
crew members -- with their clothing, their shoes, their
personal possessions -- have been recovered. The human
remains will eventually be buried with Horace Hunley
and the other crew in Magnolia Cemetery. There's a high
level of preservation because the fine silt shut out
Oh look at that. Unbelievable.
ALDA (NARRATOR) It's believed that the crew were all
Confederate soldiers. Here's one man's pipe. Did they
smoke down there? A lead pencil. A thimble - soldiers
did their own sewing. Many different kinds of buttons,
including one from a US Navy uniform, where one crewman
must have served before the war. And here's a Union
soldier's I.D. tag - probably a battlefield trophy.
A match stick… And the candle it was used to light -
perhaps just for a moment, to read the compass. Maria
Jacobsen, the project's Danish head archaeologist, learned
her trade excavating Viking long boats - a trade which
mainly seems to involve unpleasant working conditions.
ALDA What's all this stuff here?
JACOBSEN What you're looking at is the forward end of
the crew compartment. And this is the forward pump that
controlled the water level in the forward ballast tank.
This is probably the handle to operate the pump. And
the crew members would sit on this wooden bench. There
was only three and a half feet between the edge of the
bench to the starboard side.
ALDA But look at how little room there is between the
seat, between the bench and the top of this. They must
have been bent over like this, if they sat here...
JACOBSEN One of the things we wondered about, because
all the men sat on one side, how did they balance the
sub? Did they have a counterbalance over here? But I
think we're learning now that the sub was so cramped,
in fact, that when they were sitting at their stations,
the heavy upper torso and head was directly above the
center line of the sub.
ALDA So they balanced it automatically.
ALDA Okay, now you know what I see now that I didn't
get before, is these handles were what they turned to
move the ship. They sat there and turned the handles.
ALDA (NARRATOR) It's this hand-cranking that's the sub's
most astonishing aspect. Horace Hunley's engineers had
tried electric motors, but couldn't get enough power.
Others tried steam, but that meant never submerging.
Seven Hunley crew men were there as human engines. The
eighth was the captain. For the attack on the Housatonic,
the captain was a young lieutenant, George Dixon, who'd
been wounded at the Battle of Shiloh. Maria Jacobsen
will never forget that connection.
ALDA Dixon's body was identified?
JACOBSEN Yes, he had a very significant artifact on
him. The golden coin that was given to him by his sweetheart,
ALDA (NARRATOR) The gold coin that Queenie Bennett gave
Dixon had saved his life at Shiloh - it had stopped
JACOBSEN I got it.
Say the words.
JACOBSEN I have the golden coin right here.
You feel it in your fingers?
JACOBSEN Oh, I feel it in my fingers, oh I do.
Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God! I have the chills!
Oh my God!
There it is. Is that fantastic or what? Maria, why are
JACOBSEN Why do you think I'm shaking?
JACOBSEN Not only was it very clearly a gold piece that
had been hit by a projectile, but he had actually had
it inscribed. As a memento of...
ALDA What did it say on it?
JACOBSEN It said "Shiloh, April 6, 1862. My Life Preserver".
ALDA (NARRATOR) Why could Dixon not bring the Hunley
back that night? The sub is clearly damaged. There's
a gash in the stern… And there's a hole in the forward
conning tower. It's plugged here with white foam. Was
the damage perhaps caused by a collision with one of
the other blockade ships, racing to the aid of the Housatonic?
The silt deposits seem to say no. There's a tell-tale
band of coarse material half way up the inside. For
Maria that's significant.
ALDA So does that indicate to you that that coarse material
came in through a larger opening than the fine silt?
JACOBSEN Exactly. Exactly. Because it's a later deposit.
And it's scouring into the existing sediment. It tells
me it occurred afterwards.
ALDA (NARRATOR) If coarser sediment could only get in
after half the fine material entered, that means the
large holes in the hull happened after the sub sank
- probably caused by a ship's anchor or fishing gear.
The project's high tech equipment may be pointing in
a different direction.
MARDIKIAN This is the cover of the forward hatch here,
okay? And this is the hatch itself. Now, if you measure
this. At the front of the conning tower, there's a gap.
If you play on the density, you see it is black. It
means that there's no density. That's rubber. This is
a rubber seal that sealed the submarine closed.
ALDA Now why is the rubber thicker here than it is over
MARDIKIAN You are going to draw the conclusion yourself.
ALDA I am guessing there was some kind of a leak here
or some kind of a separation.
MARDIKIAN Or it's open.
ALDA It's open? You think it's definitely open?
MARDIKIAN My theory is that this is unlocked. The closing
mechanism is unlocked.
ALDA The hinge is over here. So it's compressing this
part of the rubber, but it's not compressing this because
it's not tied down.
MARDIKIAN And the rubber itself has a tendency to pop
ALDA ...pushes back if you're not locking it in place.
MARDIKIAN Exactly. You've got it.
ALDA (NARRATOR) If the crew really did signal their
success on the surface after the attack - which means
they'd survived their own explosion - then something
subsequently made them dive the boat. Maybe in a hurry,
rushing to avoid an approaching ship, they didn't fully
lock the hatch, it sprang open…we'll probably never
know. Somehow this "engine of war not recognized by
civilized nations" -- as a Union admiral described it
-- went to the bottom.
ALDA How long do you think it will be...
ALDA (NARRATOR) One recent afternoon, I found myself
walking along a hillside overlooking the Connecticut
River, in the company of one of the world's greatest
explorers - Bob Ballard.
BOB BALLARD ...within five years I'll have everything...
ALDA (NARRATOR) After 30 years of extraordinary successes
opening up the mysteries of the deep ocean, Ballard
now advocates a new kind of exploration, using remote
control. It's the latest phase of a career that spans
more than a hundred ocean expeditions, including at
least a couple of scientific revolutions.
ALDA You seem to have been present at some of the greatest
discoveries and not only about the ocean but about the
BOB BALLARD My strength is in the technology that I
developed. I've sort of used the technology as my passport
to explore anything. And so, I have a love of geology,
but I have an equal love of anthropology. And, fortunately,
they're all under water. I got the only key to the car,
so to speak, and that's been how I've been able to be
at a particular point in human history when we've gone
beneath the sea.
Have a good one.
Sealing the hatch.
Hatch is secure.
ALDA (NARRATOR) This is the Alvin, a three-person submersible
that's made more deep ocean discoveries than any other
sub - often with Ballard on board. Launched in 1964,
Alvin's still going strong, diving for the Woods Hole
Oceanographic Institution. Alvin's sister ship, the
Turtle, was retired from the Navy in 1997.
ALDA Why is this called the Turtle?
BOB BALLARD Well, it was really one of the earlier submarines,
the first submarine ever built in America was the Turtle
ALDA Oh, really?
BOB BALLARD And it attacked the British in the Revolutionary
ALDA (NARRATOR) Bob Ballard was a Woods Hole scientist
for 30 years, while also a US Navy officer, so he knows
both subs well.
BOB BALLARD Alright. So this is the sail and this actually
floods, once you get out at sea, so this is the important
part, this is the hatch. Two inches thick,
ALDA So, what keeps the water from going in here?
BOB BALLARD Well it's actually tapered. If you look
at the hatch, it's like a porthole, the pressure pushes
them down. In fact, you're most vulnerable at the surface.
That's the most dangerous time because you don't have
the pressure seating it. Alright, well let's get down
inside here. So watch your step.
ALDA (NARRATOR) The heart of these deep-diving subs
is the crew compartment - a 6-foot diameter steel sphere,
built to withstand enormous forces.
BOB BALLARD Absolutely a sardine...
ALDA Oh my God! It's tiny!
BOB BALLARD Oh, yeah.
ALDA (NARRATOR) Alvin can dive to 14,000 feet, where
the water pressure outside is two and a half tons on
every square inch of the sphere.
ALDA How long does it take you to get all the way down?
BOB BALLARD Well the average depth of the ocean is twelve
thousand feet. It takes you two and half hours each
way. So you're talking five hours just commuting to
work, and if you go even deeper its even longer. PILOT
I.D. light on, request permission to dive. TECHNICIAN
Roger you're clear to dive. Depth is 25-20. PILOT Roger
ALDA (NARRATOR) With two 500-pound ballast weights,
the Alvin sinks at a steady 80 feet a minute. PILOT
Gary can you give me a vector to the target please?
ALDA (NARRATOR) Sub and mother ship communicate with
an acoustic phone that echoes as it broadcasts sound
directly into the water. TECHNICIAN Ninety meters away.
Eight zero degrees. PILOT Roger. Thank you.
ALDA (NARRATOR) On the way down there's very little
to do, and nothing to see unless you use the lights,
but that consumes battery power that you'll need at
the bottom. Eventually the pilot slows the sub's descent
by dropping first one weight, then the second. PILOT
OK altitude is about 18 meters, drop the second weight.
You'll be able to hear it. Boom…
BOB BALLARD You pop this and then if you've done your
ballast calculations right, you should stop. But everyone
lies about their weight,
ALDA Oh, you mean personally.
BOB BALLARD Yeah, everyone lies so I say, "Wait! Wait,
Alan you told me you were 180 pounds...
ALDA And we're still going!
BOB BALLARD So then you have to go to what's called
a variable ballast system, and that's where you make
up for the lying. And you start pumping ballast and
that will then take water outside and put it in a bag
and then the bag, like a bladder, will expand and makes
your volume bigger, and that slows you down until you
finally get what's called "neutral trim."
BOB BALLARD Now you're completely neutral, you're not
falling or rising and then you spend the last hundred
feet and you drive down.
ALDA (NARRATOR) Maneuvering just above the bottom with
their multiple propellers, deep submersibles like these
have given scientists their first good look at the mysterious
70% of our planet that's covered by deep ocean. PILOT
This is Alvin. At the bottom.
ALDA (NARRATOR) It's been a slow process - sometimes
too slow for Bob Ballard - but since the 1960s, it's
truly a whole new world that's been revealed.
BOB BALLARD We're going to a world that's totally dark-complete
darkness- we're gonna be within a few feet of it, and
there's no roads. So we're off track. We're going through
over the ground and up and over. And cliffs and walls
and things. You don't want to go fast. In fact, the
typical speed is like a half a mile an hour, and that's
why it's so painfully slow. You get down here and if
you're lucky in three hours of bottom time you'll cover
ALDA (NARRATOR) In 1869, a hundred years before Alvin's
launch, the French writer and ocean sailor, Jules Verne,
published his classic story of the renegade scientist
who travels the world's oceans in his fabulous submarine,
Nautilus. None of Captain Nemo's technology existed
at the time, of course, although in Hollywood's 1916
version the self-contained diving suits were a genuine
technical advance. The adventures of Captain Nemo and
his crew were an inspiration for generations of ocean
explorers, including Jacques Cousteau and Bob Ballard.
While some features of the Nautilus brilliantly foreshadowed
later developments, Jules Verne did get one thing wrong
- the question of pressure. The design of submarines
like the Nautilus, capable of accommodating large crews,
developed rapidly during the Second Word War. Yet even
the best of the German U-boats were limited to a depth
of about 700 feet, and today's large submarines can
go no deeper than a few thousand feet. It was Otis Barton,
an engineer from Massachusetts, and his collaborator,
William Beebe, who first solved the problem of how to
reach extreme depths. The solution was to dive in a
small, massive sphere - they called it a bathysphere.
A spherical form offers the most effective resistance
to the crushing pressures at depth. In a series of dives
off Bermuda in the 1930s, they shattered the existing
depth record of 525 feet, established by a diver in
an armored suit. The bathysphere was simply lowered
from a barge, a risky business since any fault in the
cable would lead to a fatal plunge to the bottom. Beebe,
who was a curator of birds at the Bronx Zoo, was greeted
with disbelief when he reported seeing strange new creatures
in the depths. It would be another 50 years before he
was proved right. It was the peculiar subs called bathyscaphs,
conceived by the Swiss balloonist Auguste Piccard in
the 1930s, which finally reached the deepest part of
the ocean - the 35,000-foot Challenger Deep off Guam.
A huge tank of gasoline provided flotation, so you didn't
need a suspension cable. Bathyscaphs were safer, but
very unwieldy, as Bob Ballard discovered.
BOB BALLARD We were going in slow, but it's like if
I just sort of took my hand and I had enough force to
go right through this couch. You'd just see this…well,
that's what happened. The front of the submarine came
down and I'm looking at it, and it's just the metal
and everything, its just twisting in my eyes, like a
giant... just slowly, just very slowly, taking the submarine
and just ripping it open. And then I see av gas coming
ALDA What's that?
BOB BALLARD That's the flotation gasoline. We ruptured
ALDA How did this turn out? Did you live?
BOB BALLARD Well here's what happened. We then, he dropped
the whole- then you could drop the whole door and he
dropped ten tons. When he saw that, I said "av gas!"
When I yelled "av gas," he dropped the doors open and
we dropped ten tons. Now we're at 20, 000 feet. It's
a six hour trip home and here's what happens. You're
leaking your gasoline and you start decelerating and
then you start back down. Well, they had in the sub
a little calculator- you know one of those little LED
displays? Freezes up on a number? And so every few seconds,
it was telling you your ascent rate. Well ,there was
enough uncertainty in the calculation that it depended
on whether you were an optimist or a pessimist. You
could get whatever you wanted out of those numbers.
ALDA You didn't know whether you'd make it to the top
before you lost your gasoline which gave you the buoyancy?
BOB BALLARD Exactly. And then you'd go negative. No
one spoke. The most silent experience I've ever had,
and we all looked at those numbers…
ALDA For six hours?
BOB BALLARD For six hours. And we were decelerating,
because we were losing flotation. But we had enough
to get home.
ALDA (NARRATOR) It was a technical breakthrough in the
60s that allowed the Alvin and her sister ships to shrink
down to a practical size. Instead of a huge gasoline
flotation tank, they used a new material called syntactic
foam, packed inside the fiberglass shell.
BOB BALLARD What they were able to do is get rid of
the gasoline by taking silicon and they atomized it
and they made these little microspheres of glass with
a little air in them. Billions of them. And it's sort
of like a powder, but it's has tremendous strength,
but it weighs less than half of what seawater weighs.
So, by adding this foam, this is what basically makes
the submarine float.
ALDA (NARRATOR) It turned out the small, deep-diving
subs were the perfect answer to a big question - how
to explore the vast undersea mountain range called the
Mid-Ocean Ridge. During the decade of the 1950s, depth-sounding
surveys had gradually revealed the Ridge as a 42,000-mile-long
mountain range, sometimes rising 15,000 feet above the
sea floor, snaking around the globe between the continents.
It's the largest geological feature on earth. The pictures
of lava formations on the mid-Atlantic ridge that Ballard
filmed from the Alvin, left no doubt that the Mid-Ocean
Ridges are volcanoes, which create the earth's crust.
Next the question was - where's the heat? In 1977, Ballard
provided the answer with the discovery of hot water
vents, 8,000 feet down on the Galapagos Rift. Then came
the totally unexpected. Clustered around the vents were
what seemed to be giant clams - life, in the black ocean
depths. It was the dawning of a scientific revolution,
which Ballard and the Alvin would pursue for the next
ALDA This picture you have on the wall. What is that
a picture of?
BOB BALLARD That is the moment of discovery of these
life forms. I think it's my proudest moment. People
think maybe it was the Titanic. Actually it wasn't.
We didn't discover the Titanic, we knew it existed.
It was the discovery of hydrothermal vents, these exotic
creatures. See, prior to our discovery of hydrothermal
vents in 1977, we thought all life on our planet was
due to the sun- that the photosynthetic energy we get
from the sun, that plants capture, turn into organic
matter that animals then eat, then we eat the animals-was
it. But then we discovered in the total darkness, in
a world alien to anything we can think of, creatures
that were living not off the energy of the sun but the
energy of the earth itself.
ALDA (NARRATOR) It was not until 1979 that Ballard was
able to get back to the Galapagos Rift, and uncover
the tremendous variety of life that lives around the
vents - the tube worms, mussels, crabs, even fish, that
shelter in the warm, volcanic currents. On the '79 expedition,
Ballard - who's a geologist - was able to bring astonished
biologists to see the vent life-forms for the first
time. It was the beginning of a whole new branch of
biology, still going strong, which has figured out how
the vent life makes a living down here in the dark.
It's turned out that it's the composition of the water
emerging from the vents that's the secret. The water's
saturated with hydrogen sulfide gas -- toxic to most
life forms we know, but down here there were bacteria
that were new to science. They can extract energy from
the hydrogen sulfide in the vent water. Many scientists
believe life on Earth began in places like this. All
the vent life depends on the sulfide-eating bacteria.
There have now been many expeditions to ocean vents,
with intensive study of the life, often including raising
samples of clams, tube worms, or crabs up to the surface,
a mile or two above. PILOT Both weights away.
ALDA (NARRATOR) Surprisingly, biologists have had some
success in keeping deep ocean animals alive, in special
labs on board ship. In this system, the intrepid researchers
remove the foul-smelling worms from their shell-like
tubes. Plastic replacement tubes are then used - not
without some difficulty. The plastic tubes can then
be fitted into pressure cylinders, which are pumped
up to simulate conditions at depth. The tube worms have
what's called a symbiotic relationship with the sulfur-eating
bacteria. In fact, the entire contents of the worm are
just bacteria. Although it's still not clear exactly
how these symbiotic relationships work, there's no doubt
that sulfur-loving bacteria are at the base of the entire
food chain at the deep ocean vents. Some animals, like
crabs, eat the bacteria directly. Others, like tube
worms and giant clams, shelter them in their bodies.
Still others, like vent fish, are predators, feeding
on everything else. In 1979, Ballard made yet another
historic discovery, in an area called the East Pacific
Rise, off Baja California. They called them Black Smokers
- chimneys spewing out clouds of mineral-rich water,
so hot that it must have come from deep in the earth's
crust. It explained why the sea is so rich in minerals.
BOB BALLARD The seawater, which is under pressure, goes
right down into those cracks, goes down to the magma
chamber. The magma chamber is hot -- 1400 degrees, 1200
to 1400 degrees centigrade. And so it heats up the water,
and then the water begins to interact with the magma
chamber, and it changes its chemistry.
ALDA Now does the water turn to steam?
BOB BALLARD No, it can't because of pressure. It turns
into superhot water.
ALDA Superhot water which means it stays …
BOB BALLARD Liquid.
ALDA Liquid, but it's really...
BOB BALLARD Really hot. And its now full of chemicals
that it didn't have before. And its those chemicals
that are coming out of the black smokers that are responsible
for the chemistry of the world's oceans. In fact we
now realize that the entire volume of the world's oceans
is going inside the earth and out, every six to 8 million
ALDA Every six to eight million years.
BOB BALLARD The entire volume…
ALDA All the oceans in the world…they all go down...
BOB BALLARD Through this system.
ALDA Under the floor of the ocean.
BOB BALLARD Into the mountain range, and come up in
the form of black smokers.
ALDA And it takes eight or ten million years…
BOB BALLARD For the whole ball game. That's a lot of
ALDA Well, of course.
BOB BALLARD And that's what's caused the chemistry of
the world's oceans. And we didn't know that.
ALDA (NARRATOR) Ballard almost didn't live to tell the
world about Black Smokers. It all began when they moved
in to take a measurement.
BOB BALLARD The first time we saw one, we're coming
up on one, we're inching up and it's high, so we had
to come up high. So we're now neutrally buoyant and
there's an updraft and its pulling us towards it, OK?
And we're trying to find out what the temperature is
and so we take our mechanical arm out and we stick it
in there. And we look at the, and it pegs off scale.
And the pilot says, "That's hot." And then he removes
the equipment- the temperature and it's melted. And
then he says, "I just want to let you guys know that
the probe's made out of the same material as the porthole."
And we were like, three feet away. ALA ALDA And moving
BOB BALLARD And moving toward it.
ALDA So, what, everybody go like that? BOB: Absolutely!
Fortunately, the sub has a reverse. And we actually
bumped by it, we bumped it and knocked it over and when
we came up, the side of the submarine was melted. The
syntactic foam, was melted.
ALDA When you came up this close to it, had anybody
ever seen a black smoker before?
BOB BALLARD Never. Never.
ALDA So you almost discovered it and disappeared with
your own discovery.
BOB BALLARD Yeah, yeah, no, it could have been a bad
ALDA Could have been a while before anybody knew that
there was a black smoker down there.
BOB BALLARD Yeah, well what would have happened was
if it hit your porthole at that high temperature, it
would have shattered and imploded. Takes about a quarter
of a second.
ALDA Because there's so much pressure.
BOB BALLARD To just go off like a bomb.
ALDA (NARRATOR) In spite of the spectacular scientific
advances that have been made with the use of small manned
submersibles like Alvin, Ballard says we don't need
subs like this any more. He came to that conclusion
right here on the Galapagos Rift.
BOB BALLARD The turning moment for me was in a submarine
just like this one, when we found these unique life
forms. And we were down on the bottom of the Galapagos
Rift, it was 1979, OK. And biologists had never seen
these life forms ever before, and we got them in the
submarine and, a scientist by the name of Holger Jannish,
who just couldn't wait to see these creatures. He knew
he was going to be famous, just to be the first to see
them biologically. And so we got down there and they
were right outside the window. And I was sitting over
here and I had brought down a new prototype camera system
-- a digital camera system. And I was looking at the
animals and I looked up from my porthole and I looked
at Holger, and he had his back to the window. I said,
"Holger, what are you doing?" And he said, "I'm looking
at the monitor."
ALDA That's amazing.
BOB BALLARD And I said, " Wait a minute, let me see
if I got this right…
ALDA We came all the way down here…
BOB BALLARD We came all the way down here, and you turn
your back to the window -- and I went (snap)
ALDA (NARRATOR) The result of that insight is inside
these blue shipping containers, on display at the Mystic
Aquarium. It's the portable control room which Ballard
developed to run subs remotely. Now the sub's windows
have become underwater cameras. What's the point of
taking people down if they can't go outside when they
get there? says Ballard. Everything can be controlled
from the surface - even collecting samples - so long
as the communication link is good. Argo, a towed camera
sled with a fiber optic link, was Ballard's first remote
vehicle. After 9 days, 24 hours a day, Argo found the
Titanic - and that was thanks to an ingenious search
strategy Ballard invented.
ALDA When a ship sinks, does it leave a trail of debris
in the process of sinking?
BOB BALLARD It can do that. The Titanic did that.
ALDA Why does that happen? What's going on there?
BOB BALLARD Okay, lets take the Titanic, because I looked
for the debris trail. Everyone else looked for the Titanic.
They didn't find it. Well, clearly it wasn't a good
idea. Because the Titanic was in a very complicated,
badlands of the Dakotas, canyons and valleys and you
could hide a thousand Titanics in this rugged terrain,
OK? So here's the Titanic up at the surface, OK? It
goes vertical, then it snaps in half. What's it now?
Big salt shaker. What's coming out of it? Everything.
Take this room, dump it. Okay, so lets take this room
and throw it out the window OK? Well lets' say I took
a heavy object, the stone. The stone's going to go...
but lets' say my paper, I throw the paper. How long's
it going to take the paper to sink? Longer than the
stone? Yeah…it's going to take forever for the paper
to sink. If it even sinks at all. So what happens is,
there's a current running -- remember, there's rivers
in the ocean. The Labrador current that brought the
icebergs down, so that's a huge body of water. So an
object will fall straight through it if its heavy. But
a lighter object will be carried by it. It may take
it hours and hours and hours. Well, it's traveling miles
before it finally falls through the upper current layer.
And then it falls down. So you get a debris trail. So
…look for the debris trail.
ALDA (NARRATOR) In late summer of 1985, Ballard managed
to get 11 days of sea time on the Woods Hole research
ship, Knorr. You can see Argo's portable control room
on the stern here. Argo was towed back and forth through
the area where Ballard figured Titanic's debris trail
should be. For 9 tedious days, video of empty sea floor
came back to the control room. Then…
We're over something… Oh look at that…you can see it
on the …. I can see it too! What is it? I don't know,
but it's man made! More stuff coming. That is big. Boiler!
I got boilers. Yes, yes. Fantastic! Goddam. Break out
ALDA (NARRATOR) With only 2 days' search time left,
Argo's cameras had picked up Titanic's ghostly shape,
12,000 feet beneath the spot in the North Atlantic where
she'd hit the iceberg that fatal night in 1912. Ballard's
strategy had been exactly right.
BOB BALLARD I knew that current was north to south,
because that's where the icebergs come from. So I ran
east to west. And I knew, I said well where do you start?
Well, what's the lightest of all the debris that came
out of the Titanic?
ALDA Well, wouldn't it have been paper?
BOB BALLARD The lifeboats.
ALDA Oh, I see.
BOB BALLARD They didn't sink at all. So, if I know where
they picked up the lifeboats -- the Carpathia -- it's
gotta be north. So I started my search underneath where
they picked up the lifeboats with the Carpathia, and
then I ran my lines like that. And on the ninth line,
picked up the debris trail, followed it home. It lead
me right to the Titanic.
ALDA (NARRATOR) The following year, Ballard returned
to the Titanic - but in the Alvin. He'd wanted to use
a new remote, steerable vehicle called Jason, but it
wasn't ready. So he approached the Titanic using what
he now regarded as outmoded technology - although it
surely must have been a thrilling experience to really
be there. Landing on the deck of the ship, Ballard deployed
from Alvin a brand new remote vehicle called Jason Junior.
And it was Jason Junior that shot those haunting pictures
that we all saw, some from deep inside the wreck. It
was the last Alvin expedition Ballard would conduct.
Although he would make some dives in US Navy deep-dive
subs, from now on most of his efforts would be concentrated
on remotely operated vehicles, or ROVs, and much of
his attention would be devoted to shipwrecks -- and
a new kind of archeology. Jason, Ballard's first fully-capable
remotely operated vehicle, was launched in 1989 after
5 years of development at Woods Hole. There was skepticism
about what ROVs could achieve. But over the next 10
years, using Jason, Argo and a series of other vehicles,
Ballard opened up a new field of deep water archaeology,
in the Mediterranean and Black Sea. As usual, Ballard's
imagination was hard at work.
BOB BALLARD If you were on a Phoenician ship, and you
were carrying 2000 amphorae of a fine wine for the pharaoh
of Egypt, what would you do along the way?
ALDA You'd drink the wine and throw the jugs overboard.
BOB BALLARD You got it! Absolutely! And what if you
did that for thousands and thousands and thousands of
years? What would you find?
ALDA A lot of these jugs.
BOB BALLARD A trail. So what I do is I say, OK here's
an ancient seaport, lets say its Carthage. I'm gonna
drive along here until I pick up the trail and I'm gonna
follow it and that's exactly what I did.
ALDA Now how do you find it? Visually?
BOB BALLARD Yeah, just go along and look for empties.
That's exactly what I did and there were the empties.
And they weren't broken either! They didn't throw' em
over because they were broken, they threw em over because
they drank em!
ALDA (NARRATOR) Finding shipwrecks, 2- or 3,000 years
old, in deep water has forced a reappraisal of how ancient
sailors navigated. It was commonly believed that they
hugged the coastline, but these discoveries have shown
they took direct routes, in open water. They were better
sailors and navigators than we had supposed, but inevitably
some ships were lost. There are many whole ships, whole
cargoes, in these deep, cold waters. Ballard believes
these discoveries are the first glimpse of a deep-sea
archaeological treasure trove.
BOB BALLARD Shipwrecks are time capsules. They're pure
moments in time. Everything on that shipwreck went down
that moment. And particularly in the deep sea, it's
preserved. It's in a high state of preservation. So
imagine that probably everything humans have done has
caused them to go out onto the sea with their commerce,
with their technology and then they lose it. And they
lose it in the deep sea which puts it in sort of a warehouse.
I think there's more history in the deep sea than all
the museums in the world combined. We think there's
maybe one million time capsules. You guys ready to go?
ALDA (NARRATOR) Here's Ballard's latest use of remote
underwater vehicles. He calls it telepresence.
BOB BALLARD Alright, so here we are, the next step.
ALDA Now where are we? What is this?
BOB BALLARD This is a live shot, coming in from Monterey
ALDA This is like the ultimate webcam.
BOB BALLARD Absolutely! But even better. The aquarium's
on our left. Cannery row is on our right. We're going
to zoom in on these rocks, and we're going to look at
some seals, looks like harbor seals, and a cormorant.
See the cormorant sitting there? So, that's a live feed-
oops! There's one right down there, and there's one
ALDA (NARRATOR) So far, it's maybe a bit better than
a webcam -- but don't go away. The real point of the
system is out in the bay, between these two white markers,
BOB BALLARD So we're now gonna jump underwater …and
there we are.
ALDA (NARRATOR) Now we're seeing live, high-quality
pictures sent on a data link across the continent, from
Monterey, California to Mystic, Connecticut. And we
can control the camera, too.
BOB BALLARD Uh, hello guy!
ALDA Oh, look at that. What is that?
BOB BALLARD That's a fish!
ALDA I know it's a fish!
BOB BALLARD I know. Get the biologist! I'm a geologist.
And I'll zoom back out because I'm gonna give it to
you. Can I see your driver's license?
ALDA Just get out of the way.
BOB BALLARD That's up and back.
ALDA Right. OK. Wait...
ALDA (NARRATOR) Telepresence, I found, does have its
BOB BALLARD Do it slowly, because there's a little time
delay. Watch! You're at the end of the line! Stop!
ALDA Oh, I'm gonna crash!
BOB BALLARD You did!
ALDA I thought it was a fish!
BOB BALLARD No, that's the end of the line.
ALDA (NARRATOR) At the heart of the trans-continental
telepresence system is another remotely operated vehicle.
It had been installed just the week before I tried it
out. Monterey Bay's a marine sanctuary, so it's hard
to get permission to do anything here. But for Ballard,
that's the attraction. This is the first of two remote
vehicles to be installed in different parts of the Monterey
sanctuary. Then the plan is for systems to go into marine
sanctuaries in the Florida Keys and California's Channel
Islands. Eventually, visitors to museums and aquariums
across the country, and around the world, will be able
to experience a wide variety of underwater environments
BOB BALLARD OK come around again.
ALDA (NARRATOR) And it is extraordinary. You can feel
you're there, as you steer the camera and vehicle through
the kelp and rocks. Ballard's not content with inspiring
a couple of revolutions in marine science and archaeology,
and then wiring up the country's marine sanctuaries.
Now he's off and running with a new crazy idea. If 70%
of the globe is covered in water, it's time we started
living out there, he says. Here's a marine habitation
you tow into place, then tip up and anchor.
BOB BALLARD There's no budget in America, zero, zip,
for colonizing the world's oceans. Nothing. They're
not even thinking about it.
ALDA You're actively at work on this? I mean, you've
BOB BALLARD Yeah, we're designing it. See, also you
can use heat exchangers, so that you can take advantage
of the thermocline to have nice air conditioning. You
can have this solar panels, where this thing…
ALDA You're just moving cold air up, or you're creating
electricity or what?
BOB BALLARD Yeah, no. It's cold! It's freezing down
there! Circulating air. You've got vanes that you can
control so your solar panel follows the sun throughout
the day. You can helo out to it. I want to put it in
a marine sanctuary, and have rangers living on it.
ALDA (NARRATOR) I have to admit I was skeptical about
the ocean colonization idea, but when I said so, Bob
Ballard answered with the confidence of experience.
BOB BALLARD All my life, I've had these ideas, and people
say, "you're nuts." 'Til I do them. Then you know what
they say? "You know, actually, that wasn't a bad idea,
but it's the new one you have that's nuts." And then
I go on with the new one and I do it, and then they
go, "Well, actually it wasn't such a bad idea but it's
the next one." This is the one they think I'm nuts on