50th Anniversary of Rolex Record Dive: 10,916 Metres Deep on January 23, 1960
Rolex presents: The Trieste's Deepest Dive (Extended)
1960 Dive - DEEPSEA CHALLENGE Expedition
The Expedition / 1960 Dive
This article was originally published in the August 1960 issue of National Geographic magazine and retains the original language and spellings.
Man’s Deepest Dive
By Jacques Piccard“Do you think we shall be able to make the dive?”
The voice of our faithful engineer, Giuseppe Buono, was taut with anxiety. A 37-year-old Italian, he had already prepared the Trieste for diving 64 times, first in the Mediterranean and this year in the western Pacific off Guam. Now he was wondering whether it was not sheer madness for the bathyscaph to attempt to descend 36,000 feet—nearly seven miles—under existing conditions. In fact, I was wondering the same thing myself.
The date was January 23, 1960. The United States Navy’s ocean-going tugboat Wandank had been towing the Trieste for four days; now we were some 220 miles from our base on Guam.
The sea had become rougher and rougher. At that moment waves were sweeping the bathyscaph’s deck without ceasing, and we had just discovered that the surface telephone, which enabled the pilot to give his final instructions before the dive, had been torn away. The tachometer, indicating speed of descent and ascent, had been completely demolished during the towing, though it rode eight feet above water level and had weathered more than 50 dives.
Another instrument, a vertical current meter, was partly broken and hanging miserably on its support. The bathyscaph looked like a victim of battle rather than an undersea laboratory about to explore the Mariana Trench—the deepest place in the oceans.
Torches Mark Scene of Dive
It was hardly daylight. A few dozen yards away on the water burned some flares which our escort destroyer had placed to show us the exact spot where the dive should begin. Indeed, the bottom had been carefully sounded. More than 800 TNT explosions had followed one another for two days before the Challenger Deep was marked.
All that work, those four days of laborious towing, the unavoidable fatigue that resulted for the crew—was it all to be lost? Should we risk months of delay because a few instruments—important, to be sure, but not vital—were lacking?
“I am going to check the main electric circuits in the sphere,” I replied to Buono. “Then, if everything is in order, we shall dive immediately.”
The main electric circuits control release of ballast. One of my father’s basic ideas when he invented the bathyscaph was to hold the ballast—in this case mainly iron pellets—by means of electromagnets. Hence it is necessary merely to cut the current, an operation that is always possible, in order to lighten the bathyscaph and cause it to ascend automatically. The bathyscaph functions like a balloon in the sea, deriving its buoyancy from lighter-than-water gasoline instead of the balloon’s lighter-than-air gas.
Don Walsh joined us on the bathyscaph’s deck. Lieutenant Walsh, the U. S. Navy officer in charge of the Trieste, had already made six dives, the latest to 24,000 feet with me two weeks previously.
This dive we were making was to be decisive for Don as well as for me: If everything went as planned, he would take over as the bathyscaph’s pilot, and I, having shown the Trieste‘s capabilities to the utmost, would return to Switzerland and set to work constructing a new machine.
In the sphere the air was good—fresh and dry, thanks to the silica gel placed on board before our departure from Guam. This does not mean we were comfortable. The big gasoline-filled float above our spherical cabin was the plaything of the waves, and the whole machine was rocking hard.
Under these conditions the foremost desire of a cabin passenger is to penetrate as quickly as possible into the depths, which alone can shield him from the rolling waves.
I hurry up the ladder onto the deck and give final instructions to Buono.
“When I have closed the door,” I tell him, “you may open the entrance-tube valves and proceed with normal operations. If, at the last moment, something doesn’t go well, I shall turn the propellers, and you will know that we must give up the dive.”
This simple code is to take the place of the surface telephone, destroyed by the sea during the towing. From the cabin I can turn the propellers, located on deck in Buono’s sight, and halt operations if something goes wrong—for example, in the unlikely event of water entering the cabin through an improperly shut hatch.
As soon as the bathyscaph is entirely under water, the undersea telephone will go into action, and contact will be established with our friends on the surface.
Definitely the sea is not calming down. It is broad daylight now. A few hundred yards away the Wandank is rolling and pitching more than ever. Having released the bathyscaph, she now seems to be at loose ends.
A little farther away I see the Lewis, disappearing entirely every few moments behind the big waves. She is the destroyer escort assigned to assist us on the surface and to watch over the area during the dive.
The bathyscaphe Trieste.
The bathyscaphe can descend farther and faster into the ocean than its predecessor, the bathysphere. The bathysphere’s cabin was suspended from a cable and could not move with as much freedom as the self-propelled bathyscaphe. This makes the bathyscaphe an important innovation in oceanic exploration.
Swiss scientist Auguste Piccard designed the bathyscaphe, deriving the name from the Greek words bathys ("deep") and skaphos ("ship").
It amazes me that, Mankind achieved these Great Explorations, so many years ago. Whether in the Oceans Depths or Rocketing to the Moon. But, in the years since. We have advanced very little in the area of Really Big Explorations. I'm still waiting for my Ride into Space! Now, I just hope that I live long enough to see Space Trips, become available to the conman man. Still, finally... Some advancements are being made!:) Check out the links below...
The Bathyscaphe Trieste and James Cameron Now at Ocean's Deepest Point
- James Cameron Now at Ocean's Deepest Point
- First Look: James Cameron's Sci-Fi Sub for Deepest Dive
- World Map, Online Maps, Satellite Maps - National Geographic
- 1960 Dive - DEEPSEA CHALLENGE Expedition
- bathyscaphe - National Geographic Education
- Apollo 11 Command Module "Columbia" - Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
- DEEPSEA CHALLENGER - Sub for the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE Expedition
- Cameron Dive First Attempt in Over 50 Years - YouTube
- Video -- Sounding the Deepest Spot on Earth -- National Geographic
- Video -- Cameron Dive is an Exploration First -- National Geographic
- Video -- Cameron Dive First Attempt in Over 50 Years -- National Geographic
- The Science - DEEPSEA CHALLENGE Expedition
- Video -- Video Home -- National Geographic
- Bathyscaph Trieste Dive to the Bottom of the Sea 1960 - YouTube
- Rolex presents: The Trieste's Deepest Dive (Extended) - YouTube
- 50th Anniversary of Rolex Record Dive: 10,916 Metres Deep on January 23, 1960 - YouTube