National Geographic : 1955 Apr
color at the point of focus. There was small chance, however; the real photos would come on the sea floor. At 4,600 feet I asked Houot to slow the descent. He discharged iron pellets and reduced our falling speed to 10 inches a sec ond. A few moments later he looked at the echo sound graph. "According to this," he said, "the bottom's about 200 feet below us." As he spoke, I saw be yond the droplights, per haps as far away as the bow of our hull, a vague, cloudy shape. "Listen, that's the bot tom over there. We're down already." "Absurd," said Houot. "The sonic detector couldn't be wrong." "If that isn't the bot tom, what is it? A shot of ink from an enormous squid?" I looked harder. "I don't think it's a squid. The cloud is yellow." "What's going on, any way?" said Houot. "The depth gauge, the sonic de tector, and the vertical speed indicator all say we're still going down." He was right, and so were our instruments. But what was the strange cloud? Was it the side of the canyon? Peering down, I saw our slender shafts of light thrust through the black ness and lose themselves in it. Soon, however, we 539 Georges S. Houot Shrimp Drift Past the Bathyscaphe Like Autumn Leaves Diving beyond even the faintest penetration of the sun's rays, men in the F. N. R . S. 3 have passed through zones of dense marine life-squids firing jets of white "ink," arrowworms, hatchetfish, medusae, tiny darting particles, and galaxies of shrimp like these (drawing, page 540). Bigger game sharks, rays, hake, and groupers-can be better stalked along the bottom. could make out a soft reflected glow. The effulgence brightened as we sank and resolved into two overlapping circles, the impact of the lights. Eighty feet away I saw what I thought was the bottom. Far below, five long fish with solid pectorals - sharks of the abyss-were on hand to greet us. A triangular ray, disturbed by our ar rival, shook its "wings" and flew off. The dangling guide chain touched gently on the mud, and the sharks vanished. The depth gauge read 4,920 feet. I was astonished to see that our craft was standing on an undulating shelf of mud right at the edge of a vertical cliff. When I told Houot, he laughed skeptically. "No," he said. "We are just in equilibrium, hanging off the canyon wall."