National Geographic : 1966 Apr
carry his exhalations back into the house. The oceanauts were forced to recover their helium, purify it, and replace expended oxygen. They could not, like compressed-air divers, blow bubbles into the sea. Three of them would have drained the house of gases and flooded it in a matter of hours. A compressor forced heliox through the yellow pipe, and a "depressor," or reversed compressor, pulled the gas back through the black pipe. The oceanaut at the end of this giant respiratory system wore two heavy foam-rubber wet suits; on his chest was our new two-way regulator for high-pressure heliox; and on his back he carried a conven tional Aqua-Lung filled with heliox. Like a provident parachutist, he had a reserve pack. Between wet suits the oceanaut wore an in- compressible vest, the armor with which we hoped to overcome the ocean's main threat to deep fish men-sheer cold, exaggerated by pressure and the heat-stealing effect of helium. Insulating Vests Resist Flattening Near the surface, foam rubber will ade quately insulate a man at 55° F., but 11 at mospheres of pressure will compress its air bubbles and destroy their insulating quality. To permit oceanauts to work in deep water, we had to have incompressible foam rubber. The patent consists of enclosing microbub bles of gases in tiny ebonite spheres, no bigger than motes of dust, and filling a rubber blan ket with millions of them. There wasn't time to make enough yardage for complete suits. We settled for vests to preserve the heat of KOIACaHROMFRY RATS I ITTILEHALES( NATIONAL GEOGRAPHICSOCIETY Half-mile arc of buoys, holding up power and communication lines, links the diving site with Cousteau's headquarters in the Cap Ferrat lighthouse. Line to left helps the re search boat Physalie fight the current as her crew awaits Conshelf Three's descent. Vertical voyage to a new world: Intricate maneuver of ships and men drops Conshelf Three 328 feet to a tiny patch of level bottom. As Cousteau watches from aboardEspadon, divers couple the sphere to a vertical guide wire. Then Labor slowly lowers away. Later, at a depth of 370 feet, Conshelf technicians erect an oil-well head, or "Christmas tree."