How the first explorations of the ocean depths took place (25 photos)

Category: Nostalgia, Ships, PEGI 0+
1 December 2023

Even before going into space, we decided to explore the depths of the oceans. At the beginning of the 20th century, long before the era of modern submarines and deep-sea vehicles, scientists first explored the ocean depths on a bathysphere and bathyscaphe. This story is not just about submersibles - it is about human curiosity and the relentless pursuit of the unknown, which persists throughout time.

In the 1920s, the ocean depths were as mysterious as outer space is today. American naturalist William Beebe and engineer Otis Barton dreamed of exploring these unexplored places, and developed the concept of a bathysphere - a deep-sea vehicle capable of withstanding enormous pressure when exploring the depths of the sea. This steel ball, just under 1.5 m in diameter, with tiny quartz windows, was lowered underwater on a cable from the mother ship. Inside there was enough space for two people and the necessary equipment, including oxygen tanks and a telephone for communication.

1. US Navy diver Frank Crilly on the deck of the submarine Explorer, Long Island Sound, 1932

The first dive in the bathysphere occurred in 1930 off the coast of Bermuda. Each dive expanded the boundaries of possibilities, and in 1934, scientists dived to the first record depth of 932 meters. In 1949, the record depth was 1375 meters. The bathysphere had its drawbacks: for example, the danger of sinking if the cable broke and the inability to move independently. Nevertheless, it was a triumph of engineering during this period and laid the foundation for future deep-sea exploration.

2. Marine biologist William Beebe emerges from the deep-sea submersible Bathysphere, Bermuda, August 1934.

Since the middle of the 20th century, bathyspheres were supplanted first by bathyscaphes, and then by more modern mobile deep-sea vehicles. One of the most famous bathyscaphes is the Trieste, which made a record dive into the Mariana Trench (10,919 m) in 1960. It was designed by Swiss scientist Auguste Piccard and launched in August 1953. Between 1953 and 1957, Trieste made several dives in the Mediterranean under the leadership of Auguste Piccard and his son Jacques.

3. Biologist William Beebe and engineer Otis Barton with a bathysphere, Bermuda, 1934

4. Specialists William Beebe and J. Ti-Van return to New York after a record dive off Bermuda

5. Bathysphere Exploration, Nonsuch Island, Bermuda

6. Dr. William Beebe and Otis Barton on a barge during a dive, Nonsuch Island, Bermuda

7. Dr. William Beebe discusses ocean exploration with assistants Gloria Hollister and John Tee-Wan

8. Return to New York after the dive

9. A team of researchers led by William Beebe

10. William Beebe and his wife return from vacation in Europe

11. Study of fuel leakage in the bathysphere

12. Bathyscaphe of Professor Auguste Piccard, capable of diving to a depth of 4 km, 1953

13. Professor Auguste Piccard launches the bathyscaphe Trieste, Castellammare di Stabia, Italy, 1953

14. Auguste Piccard with his son Jacques on board the bathyscaphe Trieste, 1953

15. After diving in Trieste

16. Auguste Piccard sets a new record for diving depth in his bathyscaphe "Trieste"

17. Auguste Piccard walks along the pier of Castellammare, Italy, after testing the Trieste.

18. Bathyscaphe "Trieste"

19. Jacques and Auguste Piccard on the Trieste. Then they reached a record depth at that time - 3.8 km

20. Jacques Piccard inside Trieste during a record attempt

21. William Beebe conducts underwater research in a submersible, Nonsuch Island, Bermuda

22. William Beebe and Otis Barton during underwater exploration off Nonsuch Island

23. William Beebe and colleagues, New York, 1930s

24. Professor Piccard during the first dive in Trieste

1 comment
Herb O. Buckland
Herb O. Buckland
24 December 2023
Thank you very much for the wonderful assemblage of photos. It is a valuable piece of photo history.
Herb O. Buckland
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