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During the decades humans first reached outer space, they were also reaching for the ocean’s uttermost depths. They even managed to reach those depths before placing a man in orbit.
“Opening the Great Depths: The Bathyscaph Trieste and Pioneers of Undersea Exploration,” by Norman Polmar and Lee J. Mathers tells that story. It is a history of Trieste. It also fits Trieste into its historical context.
The authors reveal an unexpected origin for the bathyscaph: high altitude ballooning. Its initiator, Swiss academic Auguste Piccard made his name in the 1920s setting altitude records in free-flight balloons. His purpose was scientific, measuring cosmic rays at stratospheric altitudes. He was equally interested in plumbing the ocean’s depths. He used concepts developed for balloons in designing the bathyscaph, an ocean-plumbing balloon. Gasoline substituted for hydrogen to provide buoyancy, iron shot provided ballast, with the crew in a pressurized spherical compartment.