National Geographic : 1955 Apr
I was rowed in a dinghy to the deep-boat's wave washed decks. Houot was already in side, checking his instru ments. Feet first and scrunching my shoulders together, I eased my body into the cramped chamber and knelt by the porthole. Houot nodded a greet ing and spoke a few words into the telephone. Pres ently one of our divers shimmered down through the water to polish the Plexiglas. Finished, he gave me the thumbs-up sign and struck out for the surface. Now we were ready. Bringing out the soda lime trays that would ab sorb the carbon dioxide we exhaled, Houot turned on the pressure regulator; with a soft hiss the pre cious oxygen seeped into our chamber. Then he clanged shut the heavy door and bolted it fast. The lid at the top of the air lock closed; the valves at the bottom opened; sea water, gurgling, rose swiftly in the shaft. As our buoyancy decreased, the bathyscaphe began to sink. To slow the descent, Houot pushed a button releasing a compartment of iron pellets. I turned 533 Harold E. Edgerton Sea Sled Gets a Checkup Before Its First Descent A ladder once used by Aqualungers diving from Calypso's launch forms the skeleton for the underwater craft, its bent rails serving as runners. This pioneer model has a flash lamp focused down upon the camera's field of vision; later versions reversed their positions. Here executive officer SaoClt tightens the rigging while Madame Simone Cousteau supervises attachment of The Society's flag. She suggested the device as an appropriate emblem of adventure to accompany a unique exploration of the depths. my attention to the porthole. Daylight was fading fast; soon I had to snap on the search light. Immediately the dark water sprang to life with pinpoints of particles, some of them darting in jerky trajectories. Here were the "blurs" I had seen on my negatives, the blurs that may yet prove to be part of the deep scattering layer! I had a notebook on my knee, but I was re luctant to take my gaze from the window. At 1,150 feet I saw an old friend, a twin star shaped object I had photographed many times with our dangle camera. At 1,380 feet I en- countered my first fish, motionless, tiny. Sixty feet farther down I glimpsed a small medusa; I could detect its pulsation clearly, something I had never, of course, been able to capture on my still pictures. In the next 200 feet the marine life thick ened until I could no longer keep pace with it in my notes. I had not even noticed that we had stopped until Houot, puzzled and mutter ing to himself, told me we were rising. "Well, why worry about our going up?" I said. "Going down and staying down are the only things we need to worry about."