National Geographic : 1955 Apr
536 Georges S. Houot Benthosaurus, the Tripod Fish, Hops Across the Sea Floor on Built-in Stilts First attempts to photograph the grotesque fish in its subsea home failed (page 526), but on a later dive bathyscaphe brought up this remarkable study. Marine biologists who had examined dead specimens thought that Benthosaurus trailed its two long pelvic fins and caudal appendage as feelers. But the bathyscaphe's viewing port revealed that the fish uses its extremities as a kind of landing gear, springing across the bottom like a cricket. Haloporphyrus (right) casts a shadow of its characteristic "double tail" (opposite). Lieutenant Commander Houot snapped this extraordinary picture at 7,000 feet. and scientists alike gathered around the Edo graph in the navigation room and followed the progress of the "tick-tick" into the depths. They were especially delighted when we proved that we could regulate the position of the camera on its long cable within a few feet of the bottom. Our executive officer, Saoit, was a particular fan. He would come up to me eagerly at breakfast time and sing out, "Allo, Papa Flash! Tick-tick today?" Perhaps he liked my camera technique be cause it didn't dirty up his decks. He would gaze at the marine biologists pawing eagerly through a pile of mud and remark in sorrow, "Once I had a clean ship." Such considerations never bothered two of the most ardent researchers we had on board: Scaphe and Philippe, Cousteau's dachshund and 14-year-old son, respectively. The mo ment Scaphe heard the winch creaking up ward with its load he would rush over, bark ing, to greet the dripping bucket, snarl at the starfish, snap at the sea cucumbers, and smell everything thoroughly. His interest was in tense but short-lived. Philippe, however, would still be elbow-deep in the intriguing muck long after Scaphe had puttered off. But if Scaphe and Philippe and the biolo gists looked slightly mad to me as they delved in their mud heaps, I must have seemed just as insane to them in my tiny darkroom. This Black Hole of Calcutta was located down near the engine room-airless, window less, and hotter than a Nebraska cornfield in July. At Bizerte we installed an air-conditioning unit, but it was effective only up to about shoulder height. I would stand with my feet in the Arctic and my head in a Turkish bath, developing yard after yard of film, searching for the rare sea creatures that would make the hours of tedium and torment suddenly worth while. Pulsating Medusa Caught on Film Nevertheless, we had our good moments. One of them was our success in photographing the medusa, Solmaris leucostyla. Examining our developed negatives, Dr. Jacques Picard, a marine biologist, expressed amazement at the large population revealed by our cameras.