National Geographic : 1966 Apr
rocks. One of the lightkeepers told me help fully, "We are getting the heaviest swells we've known here since 1947." Nobody left our lighthouse headquarters for lunch. Simone appeared with a basket of bread, cheese, ham, and pizzas, which we ate gloomily on the terrace, sheltered from the rain in jeeps and TV vans, while looking down at the waves rising around the arteries and central nervous system of Conshelf Three. Storm Tears at Conshelf's Lifelines Foaming waves battered the A-frame, car ried away its plank deck, and snapped one of its mainstays. I hurriedly conferred with my engineering chief, Alinat. We put the ocea nauts on emergency standby to surface. If the A-frame were destroyed, the cables would part; we could not continue to transmit power to the station. In that case Laban was to but ton up the sphere, break out his two-week supply of atmosphere-regenerating chemicals, and jettison ballast to ascend. Once free from the bottom, the oceanauts were to get into bed in down sleeping bags and cover themselves with blankets and outer clothing, for without their electric heaters they could well freeze to death in a few hours in helium. They had iron rations to chew while hibernating. The sphere could ride out any storm, provided we could maintain lines on it to hold it off the lighthouse rocks. After noon another stay parted. Falco and Raymond Kientzy climbed the A-frame and strung new stays that saved Conshelf Three. By morning it seemed that we had with stood the worst of the storm. For miles out, the Mediterranean looked like potato soup, and the oceanauts were at the bottom of the tureen. Apparently all unattached grains of sediment on the southern slope of the Mari time Alps had been flushed into the sea. It was bad news for our photo and TV coverage. We lowered the five-ton oil-well head to its chosen place 150 feet downslope from the undersea house. This Christmas tree was go ing to an unprecedented depth. An oil well (Continued on page 527) Human phantoms, in a beam from the diving saucer, labor on the Christmas tree. Bubbles escape a diver as his lips shiver un controllably on the mouthpiece. Umbilical cords carrying heliox vanish in the darkness. "We were buried in treacherous night," recalls the author's oceanaut son, Philippe, who as the crew's photographer brought back extraordinary still and motion pictures. 522 EKTACHROMEBY PHILIPPE COUSTEAU© N.G .S .