The missing OceanGate Titan submarine has garnered a lot of national attention. Yes, we are concerned for the lives on board. But we also find ourselves intrigued at what they attempted by pushing the limits of underwater exploration. Let’s take a look at how underwater exploration was successfully performed in the pages of our history.
The Bathysphere was an extraordinary invention that truly revolutionized deep-sea exploration. Invented by Otis Barton in 1929, it was designed to allow marine biologist, William Beebe, to study the wonders of the deep in their natural habitat. For generations, humans had looked to the sea with wonder, yet our ability to explore it had been severely limited. The invention of the Bathysphere changed all that.
The Bathysphere consisted of a spherical metal chamber, which was unpowered and lowered into the ocean on a cable. Beebe and his associate, Barton, were the first to dive in this unique vessel, reaching a depth of 803 feet on their first expedition. With their desire to learn more about the underwater world, they continued diving deeper and deeper substantially and in doing so, they broke several world records.
On August 15, 1934, they reached a depth of over 3,000 feet, marking the deepest dive ever performed by human beings. It’s hard to imagine the bravery and courage required to make such a dive. The Bathysphere allowed them to be in the midst of sea creatures they had never seen before, to witness them in their natural habitat. Thanks to the Bathysphere, the hidden mysteries of the ocean were finally revealed.
The significance of the Bathysphere cannot be overstated in the history of marine exploration. It enabled us to reach depths far beyond what we once thought were possible and to uncover the secrets of a world, so few had ever seen. The Bathysphere not only pushed the limits of human endurance but also the boundaries of human knowledge. It represented a breakthrough in underwater exploration, and the impact of this remarkable invention is still felt today, by divers and researchers alike.
As a testament to Beebe’s vision and tenacity, the Bathysphere was used for vital scientific research and exploration well into the 20th century. During World War II, it was utilized by the United States Navy to test the effects of underwater explosions. Decades later, the Bathysphere remained a treasured marvel of the modern era, inspiring generations to pursue scientific advancement and exploration.
Today, the Bathysphere continues to inspire and educate. Replicas of the device can be found in scientific museums around the world, allowing people of all ages to experience the wonder and history of this incredible innovation. It now rests in the National Geographic Museum.
on January 23, 1960, a Swiss-designed and Italian-built deep-diving research bathyscaphe, Trieste, broke barriers and redefined our understanding of the deepest part of the Mariana Trench in a feat of human ingenuity.
The journey began on October 5, 1959, with Trieste departing San Diego for Guam as part of Project Nekton. This endeavor aimed to explore the depths of the Mariana Trench in a series of very deep dives. Three months later, this vessel, crewed by the infamous Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh, reached the unbelievable depth of 35,797 ft in the Challenger Deep, the deepest southern part of the Mariana Trench.
Even more impressive was the fact that they were the first humans to reach the deepest-known point of the Earth’s oceans. For 20 spectacular minutes, they explored the ocean floor where the temperature was an icy 45 °F. But it wasn’t just the depths and the freezing temperatures that Piccard and Walsh had to overcome. In their four-hour and 47-minute descent, they faced challenges that could have halted their journey.
They had just passed the 30,000 ft mark when one of the Plexiglas window panes cracked, threatening their entire mission. Unlikely to be deterred, Piccard and Walsh remained resolute and made it to the ocean floor.
With the trip complete, they took time to observe the marine life around them and reported seeing various sole and flounder (both flatfish). Although recent authorities do not recognize this observation as valid, it remains a remarkable story of human adventure.
At this point, one can’t help but be inspired by the indomitable human spirit that led to such an incredible achievement. Through their sagaciousness, tenacity, and sheer determination, Piccard and Walsh revealed the hidden potential of humanity.
Trieste holds a significant place in history as a trailblazer and explorer. In the early 1960s, it was selected to participate in a crucial search mission to help locate the missing nuclear submarine, USS Thresher (SSN-593). The mission was no mean feat, especially since the wreck was believed to be in the treacherous depths of the North Atlantic, 8,400 ft below the surface.
But Trieste, with her powerful Terni pressure sphere, proved up to the task. Despite the dangers posed by the deep ocean, she went on an arduous journey to locate the wreckage. And, lo and behold, she accomplished the mission and saved the day.
Trieste’s exploration of the ocean did not stop there. Between 1964 and 1966, the submarine was used to develop her successor, the Trieste II, with the original Terni pressure sphere reintegrated. Such was her effectiveness that, in a short period, she was already developing another craft to explore the ocean even further.
Though Trieste was retired soon after her great exploratory feats, her history lives on. Today, Trieste remains on exhibit at the National Museum of the U.S. Navy, in Washington. She is a testament to the innovation and boldness of the human team that built her and took on this feat.