Jan 25

Trieste Achieves Depth Record

Wednesday, January 25, 2012 10:15 AM

January 23rd, 1960

The Bathyscaph Trieste descends to the Marinas Trench.

 

On Janury 23rd, 1960, the bathyscaph Trieste, recently acquired by the U. S. Navy, became the first craft to descend to the lowest-known part of the ocean, the Challenger Deep in the Marinas Trench. This depth-record was the highlight of the Trieste‘s decade-long career, a career that had a great impact on oceanography and deep-sea exploration. An article written by a former bathyscaph pilot, Lieutenant George W. Martin, USN, about the many accompishments of the Trieste, appeared in the August 1964 issue of Proceedings. In his article, Martin describes the successes of the Trieste, and explains the future problems to be solved and accomplishments to be made in the field of deep-sea exploration. He begins his artice with a description of the Trieste‘s final dive, as part of a search for sunken nuclear submarine, Thresher:

 Dive Number 128 of the bathyscaph Trieste was the tenth and last dive made by Trieste in her search for the nuclear submarine Thresher.  This was also the last dive to be made with the original Trieste, which then returned to port where she was dismantled and returned to the U. S. Navy Electronics Laboratory at San Diego, California. This was not the end of Trieste, however, merely the end of her first ten years. Indeed, it was the beginning of a new and more important chapter in the field of deep submergence, ocean engineering, and oceanographic research.

The bathyscaph Trieste made her initial dive on 11 August 1953 in the harbor of Castellammare, near Naples, Italy. This was the third bathyscaph to be built on the Piccard design. Auguste Piccard, the late Swiss physicist, wanted to explore the ocean floor and to examine the water column of the deep ocean. He felt that the only way to understand the ocean and its processes was to take the scientific eye and mind into the environment (in situ) to correlate the information gathered by the instruments. Not content with pictures or other vicarious means, and realizing that surface lowered bathyspheres were inherently unsafe because of mechanical limitations, he developed the idea of the bathyscaph—the “deep ship”—as the most useful ocean research platform.

The National Fund for Scientific Research of Belgium supplied the original finances enabling Piccard to build the first bathyscaph, named FNRS II. In 1948, this vehicle made an unmanned test dive to 4,500 feet which proved the theory of the machine and excited the interests of both European scientists and naval officers.

In 1950, an agreement was reached whereby the Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research and the French Center for National Scientific Research financed a new Piccard bathyscaph, the FNRS III. This vehicle would be built at Toulon, France, and turned over to the French Navy after its initial tests. After this design was started, Piccard left in 1952 for Italy in order to build his own bathyscaph. The French completed the FNRS III and made successful dives in her until she was retired in 1960. Thus, a spirit of competition developed between the FNRS III and the new Piccard bathyscaph, subsequently named Trieste.

Professor Piccard raised funds in Italy, principally from the city of Trieste, and in Switzerland to build his own bathyscaph. The new bathyscaph made 22 dives between 1953 and 1956. The deepest dive was to 12,110 feet.  Professor Piccard and his son Jacques realized their dream of diving in a free submersible deep into the ocean.

The Piccards soon ran into a management problem. What need did a bathyscaph fill? Who wanted the new submersible?  Scientists were interested but lacked the funds and organization to give the Trieste the logistic support required to make full use of the craft. Bathyscaphs in themselves are inexpensive to build, but the operating base, the repair yard, the crew, and the support ship must also be funded to produce useful work.

A submarine is supported by the Navy, but who is to support a research submersible? The French solution was to have the Navy operate the FNRS III, while the scientific program was funded and carried out by a National Committee for the Direction of Bathyscaphs.

 Piccard was simply ahead of his time and encountered problems in finding a place for his invention in the austere budgets of navies involved in the Cold War. He made the most of the support received from the Italian Navy while hoping that farsighted men from other navies would become interested. Piccard knew that if any nation could provide scientific and logistic support for a bathyscaph, the United States could.

In order to answer the question, “What is the need for a bathyscaph?” first let us examine the bathyscaph for what it is and what it is not.

The bathyscaph, like any submarine, is designed around the ancient principle of Archimedes, and its descent and ascent are controlled by adjusting its buoyancy relative to its displacement in the surrounding sea water. Unlike a submarine, which is restricted to the surface layers of the ocean, the bathyscaph has dived to the deepest known spot in the ocean (the Challenger Deep in the Marianas Trench, 35,800 feet). In order to accomplish this feat, several tradeoffs in design had to be made: namely the pressure proof cabin had to be built strong enough to withstand the tremendous hydrostatic pressures of 16,000 pounds per square inch and at the same time, it had to be a useful size and reasonable weight. Today’s technology makes this possible with a steel sphere of seven feet in external diameter.

 Inside the sphere the observer can breathe air at normal atmospheric pressure. Unfortunately, this steel sphere is about five tons negatively buoyant and requires an equal but positive force to keep it from sinking permanently to the sea floor. This positive force is provided by a tank filled with a light oil (gasoline). Since oil floats on water, oil trapped in a tank or float exerts a buoyant force on the float. A float with a sufficient buoyant force is then permanently attached to the sphere making the assembly neutrally buoyant. A bathyscaph, then, is made up of two bodies which counterbalance each other. The gasoline float is provided with a water ballast tank at each end to provide reserve buoyancy on the surface. The vehicle submerges by venting these tanks, allowing sea water to enter and making the craft negatively buoyant. During descent the gasoline compresses twice as fast as sea water, and sea water is allowed to flow through valves into the gasoline tank to fill the void. In this way the pressure inside the float is equal to the pressure outside the float which permits the float to be of very light construction. However, this incoming water makes the bathyscaph heavier or negatively buoyant, causing it to descend faster. This effect is compensated for by providing 16 tons of disposable steel ballast in the form of small round pellets. The ballast is held in place by electromagnets and controlled by the pilot who can valve off as little as five pounds at a time. In an emergency, he can drop the entire 16 tons in an instant, causing him to surface. The system is “fail safe” in that any complete power failure would cut off power to the electromagnets and automatically release ballast.

These tradeoffs in design features forced on the engineer by the awesome sea pressure, created a type of submersible with several definite characteristics. The limited sphere size in turn limited the crew to two or three people and the dive duration to about eight hours. The float shape and size and resistance severely limited the speed and endurance of the craft. The gasoline which provides lift to the craft is the lightest material readily available, but because it compresses, the float must contain a system of disposable ballast. There is also a limit to the payload of the craft. This, however, is dependent on the depth to be attained, and it is an adequate six tons for the Trieste at a depth of 20,000 feet. Electric power is supplied by storage batteries, and propulsion by electric motor-driven propellers. In order to make direct visual observations, there is a plexiglas window in the sphere and underwater lights to illuminate the abyssal blackness. Electrical wiring must be carried from inside the sphere to outside in order to turn on the lights, motors, sonars, cameras, and scientific equipment. Electrical connectors and wires must be made watertight and pressure proof. In fact, every piece of equipment carried outside the sphere must be made pressure proof or pressure equalized. Professor Piccard designed a machine beautiful in its simplicity and safe by design. But it was only the third vehicle of its kind and certainly not a finished product. Nor is it today.

The bathyscaph as it exists today is not a military submarine, but it is a research platform which will enable man to explore and to exploit the ocean depths and sea floor for peaceful and for military uses. It is essential to the ASW research program of today. It is a forerunner of the commercial applications of deep submergence which will commence in the next decade. Science and technology, under pressure from the world-wide exponential population increase, and governments, under pressure from the economic tensions implicit in this phenomena, are looking in the direction of the untouched resources of the ocean and sea floor. Who is to control these resources? Obviously the man who gets there first has a head start. The waters of the world are free today as provided for by International Law. But International Law is a rather imperfect body of laws and virtually unenforceable except by might. Human beings have a tendency to invade and settle new areas long before a governing body of laws is set up. Men precede the law. This was true of our own West, it is true of Antarctica, and it is true of the world’s oceans. Implicit in the words, “Maintain control of the seas” is the corollary to precede other men into the sea. And if we are not the first, then we must have the capability to cope with situations that arise as a result of others operating deeper than we.

Representatives of the U. S. Navy, impressed by the possibility of a bathyscaph for oceanographic research, arranged for the Office of Naval Research to sponsor a series of dives during the summer of 1957. The dives took place in the Mediterranean and enabled several U. S. scientists and naval officers to participate as observers. Jacques Piccard was the pilot, and one scientist accompanied him during each dive. An impressive array of observations were made and some scientific data recorded. The tests were successful in demonstrating the capability of the craft as an oceanographic platform. As a result, the Office of Naval Research purchased the bathyscaph from the Piccards and contracted for Jacques Piccard, to accompany the Trieste to the United States to instruct the Americans in her operation. The Office of Naval Research turned the vehicle over to the Bureau of Ships’ U. S. Navy Electronics Laboratory at San Diego, California, to support the laboratory’s sonar and oceanographic programs. The Trieste arrived in San Diego in September 1958. She made Dive Number 50, her first dive as a U. S. Navy vehicle, off San Diego on 20 December 1958.

During the next months an organization to operate the bathyscaph was built up at NEL with two branches; the scientific program was under the cognizance of the civilian scientists, while operation and maintenance were assumed by the military. Jacques Piccard, however, was the only qualified pilot for the craft, and all matters had to be referred to him for approval. Six dives were made that Spring of 1959 after which Trieste was refitted for a bigger operation, the try for the diving record of the world: Project NEKTON.

The French bathyscaph FNRS III held the world’s deep dive record since 1954 when she reached 13,287 feet. The sphere which was built for Piccard in 1953 at Terni, Italy, was made to withstand 20,000 feet of water (roughly 10,000 psi) with a safety factor of two. This depth includes 98 per cent of the oceans of the world. But the deepest known location, the Challenger Deep Trench was estimated at 36,000 feet, and it was this depth that was the goal of the U. S. Navy. In order to conquer this depth, a new sphere, constructed at the Krupp Works of Germany, was purchased by the Navy from Piccard. It was of the same outside diameter as the Terni sphere, but forged with thicker walls. This Krupp sphere with the enlarged Trieste float and the NEL organization set up base at the Naval Station, Guam in October 1959. Several dives were made to test the new combination of sphere and float. A preliminary dive to 4,900 feet was satisfactory, but the next dive to 18,150 feet was marked by water leaking into the sphere. The sphere had been made in three parts, a center ring with a cap on each end. The joint between the parts was machined perfectly and then bonded together. Upon arrival at the surface, the epoxy bond was damaged, however, and emergency measures were employed in order to enable the project to continue safely. The three sections were held in place by steel bands, and a new sealing system was imposed on the joints. Several more test and practice dives were made, and the sphere was considered satisfactory. The next stop was the Challenger Deep.

 The dive into the Challenger Deep was successfully executed by pilot Jacques Piccard and the Officer in Charge of Trieste, Lieutenant Don Walsh, U. S. Navy. This was Dive Number 70 and took place on 23 January 1960. The operators, limited in their time on the bottom and aided by excellent external lights, were able to observe this virgin world. But they returned triumphantly to the surface and suddenly the U. S. Navy had the capability to go to any depth of the ocean. The path had been blazed.

Some people are concerned as to whether or not this is the deepest spot in the ocean. They need not be. The actual deepest spot may never be known because of inaccuracies in our measuring instruments.  The U. S. Navy has descended to 35,800 feet, probably within a thousand feet of the true deepest spot. The French Navy’s bathyscaph Archimede is perfectly capable of attaining this depth also. The Russians have not reported recently about their bathyscaph, but in view of their large scale oceanographic effort, they should not be discounted.

Holding the world’s mythical record is an honor, but the real honors will be reaped by the nation that capitalizes on the opportunities afforded by deep submergence programs. Building a bathyscaph is not a difficult problem for any modern industrial society. Nor is the instrumentation a real problem, although the limited demand for deep ocean instruments makes them relatively expensive and requires long lead times for procurement.

Jacques Piccard terminated his contract with ONR after the deep dive and returned to Switzerland. Lieutenant Walsh, and Lieutenant L. A. Shumaker, U. S. Navy, were now the pilots. Project NEKTON II continued until July 1960. The next year was spent in San Diego refitting the float, making modifications dictated by recent experience, outfitting the Terni sphere with equipment and instruments, and training a crew to maintain her. Dive Number 81 took place on 14 September 1961 and opened in earnest the scientific work of the Trieste at the Navy Electronics Laboratory.

During the period from September 1961 to October 1962, the Trieste carried scientists and their equipment engaged in acoustic studies and geological and biological investigations. The results of these studies have been published in appropriate scientific journals. Improvements were made to the operational equipment of the bathyscaph including the propulsion motors, underwater lights, and the camera system.

During this time also, the watch was relieved in Trieste and Lieutenant Commander D. L. Keach, U. S. Navy, and Lieutenant G. W. Martin, U. S. Navy, took over from the two original Navy pilots. These diving operations were carried out on a weekly schedule of one dive a week, weather permitting. The two pilots alternated dives and the equally important job of surface safety officer. One or two scientific observers were carried with them in the sphere. The days between dives were sorely needed by the crew of nine enlisted men and one civilian to repair equipment, most of it one-of-a-kind, and to install new equipment for the next dive. The one civilian member of this crew is Mr. Giuseppe Buono who came with the Trieste from the shipyard at Castellammare, Italy, and stayed on ever since. This season of successful scientific dives ended with Dive Number 115 on 31 October 1962. The winter months would be used for refitting the float and for the first overhaul of the Terni sphere. Another San Diego diving season would commence in the spring.

The most important job during this period was to open and inspect the Terni sphere. As no blueprints were available at the time, the work proceeded cautiously. The sphere was made of two hemispheres with mating faces at the joint and a flange and with an O-ring in between as a low-pressure seal. Retaining rings riveted together held the sphere together. Inspection revealed some corrosion between the faces, and this was removed by grinding. The halves were then glued and fitted. The sphere retaining rings were modified to permit easier opening in the future. The sphere was fitted in place on the float and made ready for a new dive series.

An important second duty during the winter refit was to define the characteristics of a replacement float for the Trieste based on operational experience, and to translate these characteristics in coordination with the Mare Island Naval Shipyard at Vallejo, California, into a set of preliminary plans.  As this would be the first bathyscaph built in the United States, it required a great deal of discussion in order to educate the designers in the fundamentals of bathyscaph design. The contract plans were approved by the Bureau of Ships, and construction commenced that spring. As events soon showed, this was a prudent step.

Dive Number 117 opened the scientific season on 4 April 1963. The overhauled sphere was successful, no leaks. The next scientific dive was scheduled for a week later, 11 April. It never took place.

On 10 April 1963, the nuclear submarine Thresher was reported missing and presumed lost 270 miles east of Boston, Massachusetts. The Trieste was one of dozens of ships called upon to participate in the search. But it was the only ship capable of carrying human observers to the depth of 8,400 feet. The Trieste was transported to Boston, Massachusetts, and made ready for not just one dive but a series of consecutive dives requiring a complete replenishment-at-sea operation after each one. This had never been accomplished before and required a great deal of work to perfect. The at-sea replenishment was mandatory in order to avoid the long tow back to port and then return to the operating area. This would save time and wear on the fragile bathyscaph. The replenishment consisted of charging the storage batteries, replenishing nine tons of steel ballast and refilling the maneuvering tank with gasoline to be expended, replenishing the life support system with new oxygen and carbon dioxide absorbent. These preparations commenced as soon as the bathyscaph surfaced, and they continued through the night. The battery charge controlled the starting time for the next dive. There were always some minor or major repairs to the search equipment which required skilled hands. The crew of the USS Preserver (ARS-8) turned to with a fine spirit of cooperation to help in these tasks.

For the search, the Trieste was under the operational control of Commander Submarine Development Group Two. On 20 June 1963, the bathyscaph was towed to the search area and made Dives Number 119­-123, in seven days, aided by perfect weather. On two of these dives, debris from the Thresher was sighted and photographed. An upkeep period followed to increase the battery capacity of the Trieste and to make other improvements dictated by the recent operating experience.

The Trieste returned to the search area in August and made another series of dives, Numbers 124-128. On Dive Number 126, significant pieces of the Thresher were sighted and photographed.  Lieutenant Commander Keach, the pilot on this dive, also retrieved a section of piping from the debris and brought it to the surface with a manipulator. Thresher debris was photographed on two other dives. This dive series took 12 days to complete, and operations were hampered by high sea states and generally deteriorating weather. On completion of Dive Number 128, the operational endurance of the Trieste had been greatly reduced because of wave-damaged battery boxes and a general worsening of the material condition of the 10-year-old float. The Trieste was towed back to Boston for shipment to San Diego, and her crew returned home after a five-month operation. For this work in locating the Thresher, the Secretary of the Navy awarded the Trieste the Navy Unit Commendation. Ten years and one month of her life were completed. She held the world’s record for the deepest dive and had been transformed from a purely scientific craft to an operational vehicle.

The limited operational capability of the Trieste dictated that a replacement float be provided. The bathyscaph float is by necessity thin to reduce weight, but the eggshell construction of the Trieste was an operational liability. Another serious defect was the way in which machinery, equipment, and vulnerable electrical writing were exposed to the forces of the sea during a tow. Towing speed was limited to 4 knots in a calm sea and less in higher sea states. The low freeboard dictated that diving operations be carried out with great care to insure the safety of the men working on her before and after a dive.  The operators of the Trieste made up the design requirements for Trieste II with the following ideas in mind:

Maintain capability to dive to any depth in the ocean. This fixes the gross dimensions of the float by fixing the amount of steel ballast and gasoline required. The gasoline compresses by approximately 10 per cent of its initial volume at a depth of36,000 feet (16,000 psi). This requires 23 tons of disposable ballast which in turn must be supported by additional gasoline.

This maximum depth capacity plus additional features and improvements (mentioned in succeeding paragraphs) made it necessary to increase the volume of the float by approximately 30 per cent. The following table compares the dimensions and capacity of the two vehicles.

Trieste Trieste II

Length 58.5 feet 67 feet

Width 11.5 feet 15 feet maximum

Draft 18.5 feet 13 feet

Volume gasoline 35,000 gallons 46,000 gallons

Submerged displacement (at surface) 150 tons 220 tons

Improve the safety of the liquid flotation system so that the loss of one gasoline tank would not be disastrous. This was done by compartmenting the float into smaller individual tanks: 18 instead of nine tanks.

Improve seaworthiness. Increase safe towing speed from 4 knots to 10 knots.

To enhance the craft’s seaworthiness, four major modifications were made:

A basic teardrop shape was chosen for: stability at high towing speeds; streamlining to improve submerged speed; economical construction, i.e., flat sides for ease of fabrication; selected dimensions to decrease the draft to 13 feet and increase the working area of the main deck.

The flared bow was added to improve towing characteristics by providing an upward force at the bow. It also affords protection to personnel and instrumentation while at sea.

The plastic fairwater was developed to shield the access tube to the sphere from waves, wind, and sea spray. This extends the ability to operate safely in a State 3 sea. During the 1963 Atlantic operations in the original Trieste, diving was delayed for several days because of waves repeatedly washing into the access trunk.

And lastly, the average freeboard of the walking deck topside was increased from 10 inches to 24 inches for safety of personnel topside .

Improve equipment reliability. This was done by providing enclosed electrical switchboards topside with waterproof electrical connectors, which eliminated unreliable hand splices for equipment. There are 295 waterproof plug-in connectors available for use. Wire runs topside are secured in fibreglass wireways to protect them from wave damage. Underwater wiring is protected from towing damage by being enclosed in conduits of hard plastic tubing.

It was also necessary to protect batteries and other vital equipment, such as underwater lights, cameras, and sonars from wave slap by locating them inside the float. Wave­damaged battery boxes, added topside on the original Trieste in San Diego, were one of the main causes of terminating the second series of dives in the Thresher search.

Finally, a positive pressure compensation system for the propulsion motors and electric relay boxes had to be provided to compensate them with sea pressure while maintaining their electrical integrity. The original pressure compensation system allowed salt water to enter the system which greatly decreased the reliability of electrical equipment.

Increase submerged speed and endurance.  By recessing the sphere, ballast tubs, much equipment, and providing a scientific well, hull resistance was decreased. In the well, instruments are safe from towing damage and are still flushed by the water column during descent and ascent.

Additional battery capacity was provided which increased ampere hours available from 60.5-kw. hours to 117.6-kw. hours.

A more efficient propulsion system was provided, which will increase speed and endurance from 1 knot for 4 hours to 2.4 knots for 6 hours. To do this, it was necessary to install higher capacity 120-volt D.C. motors built to operate in oil at high pressures; provide more efficient reduction gearing from the motor to the propeller; install a larger propeller with a Kort nozzle for higher thrust; and relocate the motors to take advantage of the teardrop hull form.

The sphere is the heart of the bathyscaph, for, inside the sphere, the human mind programs the dive. The pilot glances out the window to check his rate of descent and to observe the sea floor. The scientist looks through the window observing the phenomena of the sea that have evaded man since the dawn of time.

The Terni sphere, still in use with Trieste II, is 6.5 feet in inside diameter. It has one plexiglass window four inches in inside diameter which looks forward and down. The window is in the form of a truncated cone, 5.9 inches thick. The entrance door is directly opposite the window and is 16 3/4 inches in diameter. Two equipment racks, each 19 inches wide, fill each side between window and door. The pilot and two observers are free to roam about in the remaining space that is approximately 4-feet-by-4-feet square and 5 feet 9 inches high.

The door, window, and the electrical lead throughs are the only penetrations in the steel sphere. Each is perfectly watertight and sea water does not leak into the sphere at any time. The original Bourdon-tube-type pressure gauge which required sea water at full pressure to be brought into the sphere, has been replaced by an electronic pressure sensor; thus bringing the depth information safely into the sphere through an electric wire.

The pilot guides the ship using a gyrocompass, propulsion motors, and a steering motor to direct the ship’s head in traversing the sea floor. He uses his ballast control panel to reach or maintain the desired depth in the water column or height above the sea floor. During the descent he uses an echo sounder to tell him his height above the sea floor and to guide him to a safe landing. An underwater acoustic telephone enables him to talk to the safety officer on the surface. A scanning sonar searches the water ahead of the moving bathyscaph to warn the pilot of dangerous obstacles.

 The scientist uses the bathyscaph in many ways. He can make direct visual observations, aided by the underwater lights. Movies and still cameras can be used to make a permanent record of his observations. Each scientist outfits the Trieste with his own special instruments as required for his particular field of study in addition to the standard measurements of pressure and water temperature taken on each dive.

The scientist’s equipment is usually in two parts; the sensor which must operate in the water and the readout which is inside the sphere. Electric power to operate all machinery except the vital ballast control circuits comes from lead acid batteries contained in a compartment in the float. This compartment is flooded with an electrical insulating oil and subjected to full sea pressure like the other compartments of the float. These batteries operate very reliably even though exposed to high pressures. Silver-zinc batteries carried in the sphere provide power for the ballast control circuits.

The new float incorporated with the original Terni sphere and named Trieste II was rededicated at the U. S. Navy Electronics Laboratory on 17 January 1964. At the ceremonies, the Oceanographer of the Navy, Rear Admiral Denys W. Knoll, U. S. Navy, spoke of the past Trieste and of the opportunities available to Trieste II in oceanography. He identified oceanography as the “science of survival.”

 The science of survival indicates both the peaceful and the military applications of oceanography. The ocean is a defensive weapon for the United States as well as a tremendous source of economic resources. The objectives of this country in the ocean are national in scope and cut across many boundaries of government, industry, and private organizations. These national goals must come under a coordinating and steering agency of the government if they are to be soundly formulated and successfully executed. Today some of these functions are carried out by the Inter-Agency Committee on Oceanography.

The increased operational capability of Trieste II, i.e., higher towing speed, increased submerged endurance, and the ability to make repeated dives at sea, greatly increases her ability to contribute to the oceanographic programs of today and tomorrow.

At her home base, U. S. Navy Electronics Laboratory, San Diego, California, Trieste II provides services in support of specific oceanographic objectives. These objectives are: to investigate environmental conditions at various ocean depths, including the behaviour of underwater sound, ocean currents, the deep scattering layer, and the sea floor. Additionally as the only operating bathyscaph in the United States, the bathyscaph group has come face to face with many of the problems of material and operations that have impeded man’s progress in the deep sea. Trieste II can develop and field test new instruments and engineering innovations necessary for improvements in deep submergence systems.

To date, the following results have accrued to the Trieste program:

• Direct counts of biological populations deep scattering layers correlated with the scattering of sound from a known sonar source.

• Recorded in situ measurements of sound speed in the water column and in sea floor sediments.

• Made observations and films of sediment transport in geological features such as deep ocean canyons.

• Observed bottom dwelling organisms and condition of the sea floor.

• Recorded in situ shear strength measurements of sediments to determine sediment stability.

• Measured water currents at the sea floor.

• Deep ocean tests of sonar transducers and instruments.

The immediate plans for Trieste II are the current oceanographic investigations now underway in the Atlantic Ocean. The scientific program at Navy Electronics Laboratory in support of the Navy’s antisubmarine warfare mission will be resumed upon return to San Diego in the fall of 1964. This points out the obvious need for an operating U. S. bathyscaph in each ocean.

The Office of Naval Research is buying a small submersible for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. This submersible, named Alvin, will operate at depths of approximately 6,000 feet. Scheduled to be launched in the summer of 1964, it is one of the few deep vehicles actually in sight.

Other Bathyscaphs. The French Navy has vigorously pursued the development of the bathyscaph since 1950 and has the only other publicly operating bathyscaph in the world. They replaced the FNRS III with the new, deep-diving bathyscaph Archimede in 1960. The Archimede has made, among others, six dives to depths greater than 30,000 feet in the Kurile Trench. Their new vehicle has a well-designed underwater form and many sophisticated control systems which aid the operator of the craft. The two bathyscaph groups exchange information to their mutual advantage.

 The field of deep submergence technology is little more than ten years old. Some problems have been recognized, others await discovery. The solution of one problem usually creates two or more additional problems. For example, the advent of propulsion for the bathyscaph created an urgent need for ship control equipment such as sonar and navigation systems. The ability to make repetitive dives demands a ship capable of supporting the Trieste at sea in order to exploit fully this capability.  Present problems in this field include the development of a deep sea navigation system, an economical primary power source for vehicle propulsion and electric power, a family of underwater tools and improved materials for the sphere and float. The progress being made in the materials field is promising where present research is pointed towards metals with a higher strength-to-weight ratio than the steel used in existing pressure spheres. These include new specially tempered steels and titanium. New buoyancy materials, solid plastics, are also being developed to replace gasoline; they are infinitely more safe than a liquid buoyancy material because they cannot float away. They are less dense than gasoline and have a bulk modulus near that of sea water. These properties will reduce the size of the float by requiring less flotation material and disposable ballast which in turn will decrease the propulsion problem.

The oceans have been used by man since time began to provide food and transportation. Yet today, millenniums later, whole new frontiers in the ocean have been opened up by a simple machine which enables man to actually see with his own eyes the ocean and the living things in it.  These frontiers will belong to those who make the effort to control them. At the present time, “the harvest is great, and the laborers are few.”

 
 
 
  • alicia

    interesting