National Geographic : 1954 Jul
79 Paris Match Up Safely from a Dive, Bathyscaphe Bobs Homeward Under Tow to Distant Toulon With bell-shaped air tanks above the waterline to prevent nosing under, and with stabilizing keels below to check her rolling, the French "deep-boat" has proved exceptionally seaworthy. On the ocean's floor her only fault was a tendency to blow a fuse, demagnetizing all locks and dropping emergency ballast. When this happened to Cousteau, he glanced at the depth gauge; for a few seconds it showed no movement, sug gesting that the bathyscaphe was trapped. Then, slowly, the needle crept upward. Said Cousteau later: "Such moments have a particular flavor that I cannot explain." The hand does not move. I rap on the gauge. "Listen, Houot. With our ballast gone, we should be going up; but the pressure gauge says we're still on the bottom." It is a puzzling, fearful instant. We survey the situation. The lights are still on in the sphere; they work from their own power plant. But the outside lights are gone. I cannot see the bottom in the sudden darkness, so I am unable to tell whether we are rising or remain ing at a standstill. Yet we certainly must have dropped all ballast. Apparently, when Houot pressed the ballast discharge button, his action created a slight overload on the electric circuits. A fuse blew, and the bathyscaphe automatically released two silos and two cases of shot, two huge bat teries and the guide chain. We should be climbing at top speed, but, according to the pressure gauge, we are not. "What about the vertical-speed indicator?" Houot reminds me. We look at its dial. "Right up to the maximum," he says. "We are rising!" The darkness outside gives no confirmation. We can feel no motion. We turn back to the pressure gauge. Slowly its needle begins to swing. The two gauges are now in agreement; we are headed for the surface. The pressure index was just slow to respond. With a shrug, Houot opens Willm's brief case and gets out sandwiches. We go up so fast, however, that we scarcely have time to eat. Diligently Houot taps out the Morse code signal warning our little fleet above that we are coming up and to clear the area to avoid collision. For myself, I am full of thanks for the merciful design of this craft of ours, which so obligingly hurries toward the top the mo ment anything goes wrong. At the surface we find the sea choppy, but the sun was never so bright. Thus ended our last dive before the bathy scaphe's departure for Dakar, French West Africa. There, in water far deeper than in our Mediterranean descent, Houot and Willm were to attempt the record-making dive described in the following pages.