of the Trieste, Monday, October 12th, 1953.
name was the Trieste, after the troubled city whose
funds helped build her, and she was about the strangest
craft to sail the Tyrrhenian Sea since the time of Ulysses.
The Trieste headed for the bottom of the sea, into the
dark Tyrrhenian Trench to the west of southern Italy,
where no ship steered by living men had ever gone before.
Trieste was Professor Auguste Piccard's newest Bathyscaphe.
On the surface she looks vaguely like a ship, but she
was really an underwater balloon designed to sail the
depths of the sea just as a blimp navigates the air.
Her crew compartment was a forged and welded steel sphere
about 8 ft. in diameter with walls 3½ in. thick.
This is the only part designed to resist the enormous
pressure of the deep sea. It hangs below a "floater":
a submarine-shaped hull of thin steel about 60 feet
long and filled with 22,000 gallons of gasoline.
floater does the duty of a balloon's gas-filled bag.
Since its gasoline is about two-thirds as heavy as sea
water and only slightly compressible, its buoyancy supports
the ship even under heavy pressure.
Ballast. The Trieste's vertical movements are controlled
just like a balloon's. To descend, it releases gasoline,
which makes it heavier in the water. To rise it drops
ballast. The Trieste's ballast is four tons of iron
filings stowed in containers in the floater. Electromagnets,
which make iron filings stick together, keep the ballast
from moving. When their current is cut off, the filings
flow into the sea. This system "fails safe."
If anything happens to the ship's power supply, the
ballast is dropped automatically. Then the Trieste,
lightened, rises to the surface.
floater had two small, electrically driven propellers,
which moved it horizontally. They made the Trieste more
like a blimp than like the passively floating balloon
in which Professor Piccard, then a mere 48, set an altitude
record of 53,152.8 ft. in 1932. Piccard promised his
wife that he would make no more balloon ascents. He
did not promise that he would not balloon to the bottom
of the sea.
Down. On a rough and rainy night last week, this odd
craft was towed to a point 18 miles south of the island
of Ponza where the Tyrrhenian Trench is 10,000 ft. deep.
Just after the cheerless dawn, old Professor Piccard,
a black Basque beret over his white hair, boarded the
Trieste from an Italian navy corvette and climbed down
a tube leading to the pressure sphere. His son, Jacques,
30, was already on board, crammed among oxygen bottles,
apparatus and 102 instruments, including a movie camera.
When the professor closed a massive door, the Trieste
was ready to dive. Men from the corvette opened valves,
letting sea water into parts of the floater. They scurried
aboard their boats, and the Trieste sank gently under
the grey sea.
and 18 minutes later she popped to the surface, cheerful
as a bubble. After the water had been forced from the
access tube, Professor Piccard and Jacques came to the
deck of the floater and were rowed to the corvette.
Leaning on his son, the professor whispered in French:
"You speak, Jacques. The credit is all yours."
Wadding. Jacques smiled and refused. For a moment father
and son clung to each other, as if too moved to speak.
Then the old professor began: "It was very important,
very lovely. And I must say that the chief merit of
this undertaking goes to my son Jacques. It was he who
guided the Trieste." There had been no trouble
at all; the Trieste had functioned perfectly. She had
snuggled down on the sea bottom (where the pressure
was about 500 lbs. per square inch) "as on a soft
wadding." The result, said Piccard, "is what
he had foreseen. It is possible for man to descend into
the sea depths using means created by him. The problem
is to overcome physical obstacles by using physical
principles." He had not felt, he made clear, that
he was running much risk.
he remarked, "is in the habit of trusting a railway
bridge. We trust the eternal laws of physics."