National Geographic : 1956 Feb
strikes an obstruction. Maurice Leandri feels the tension of the line at once and yells to Sa6ut. He stops Calypso. Then everybody simply stares at each other in wonderment. The elasticity of the nylon is actually pulling the 360-ton ship backward! We ride securely at anchor in 10,000 feet on a snagged dredge and two miles of thread. An unelastic wire cable would doubtless have snapped under the strain of snagging when under way. Our nylon had merely stretched. All we had to do was to back off the obstruction and haul up the dredge. Nylon dredging has now become a regular routine of our expeditions. We think these ex periments off Matapas have profound interest for seamen, particularly oceanographers. On this cruise we lowered Dr. Edgerton's abyssal camera to 14,000 feet and made the deepest photographs yet obtained in the Medi terranean. In the black abyss between 2/2 and 3 miles below us, the camera revealed few living things, mainly shrimps and one small fish. At 13,320 feet it took a nice clear pic ture. What of? An old tin can! Man's debris certainly gets around. To Dr. Edgerton, to me, and to the National Geographic Society's officers and Research Committee, the success of the abyssal cam era and the nylon line conjures up a picture: A ship-we trust it will be Calypso-rides anchored by much larger nylon cables over the deepest place in the sea while another of those miraculous weightless lines lets down the camera to reveal to man the uttermost depths. A Turning Point in Ocean Research We of Calypso have lived the pioneering days of free diving; now the whole world dives. We have contributed to the develop ment of diving photography; now thousands take cameras underwater. In six years in the French Navy Undersea Research Group and four years of Calypso Oceanographic Expedi tions we have developed Aqualung diving as a marine research tool; now free-diving teams are valuable branches of the leading oceano graphic centers.* Geologists are swimming down to the con quest of the continental shelf, the submerged rim of the land masses. They press on toward the dropoff line, roughly 600 feet down, where the shelf falls off to the deep. But compressed air diving is limited to about 300 feet. For several years our curiosity has been driving us beyond free diving, to the dark beneath the dropoff line. The Calypso team has been scouting ahead with powerful echo sounding and dredging, and with the Edger ton electronic flash cameras, which have made 25,000 photographs in the depths.t We have worked with the French Navy's dirigible of the deep, the Bathyscaphe FNRS-3, which has carried men to 13,287 feet, below the average depth of the oceans., * See in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, "Fish Men Discover a 2,200-year-old Greek Ship," Janu ary, 1954; and "Fish Men Explore a New World Undersea," October, 1952, both by Capt. Jacques Yves Cousteau. t See "Photographing the Sea's Dark Underworld," by Harold E. Edgerton, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, April, 1955. + See in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, "To the Depths of the Sea by Bathyscaphe," by Capt. Jacques-Yves Cousteau; and "Two and a Half Miles Down," by Lt. Comdr. Georges S. Houot, both July, 1954.