National Geographic : 1985 Apr
On Assignment AQUANAUTS on a mission to inner space, staff photographer Emory Kristof(right) and author-geologist RobertD.Ballard of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (be low) teamed up last summer in mid-Atlantic for their fifth NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC col laboration in ten years. Their shuttle: a small nuclear submarine, the NR-1 (pages 450-59). The U. S. Navy built the craft in 1969 as a re search vessel capable of prolonged deep dives. A pioneer in the use of submersibles for deep-sea research and a veteran of nearly 200 dives, Ballard and Robin Holcomb of the U. S. Geological Survey delighted in the un precedented opportunity to observe great stretches of sea bottom uninterrupted by un productive and tedious "elevator time." Previ ous dives in the small submersible Alvin required surfacing after only five hours or so on the bottom to recharge batteries. Aboard NR-1 "you are only limited by the amount of food and water you can carry, since the sub supplies virtually unlimited power," Dr. Bal lard says. As a result, he was able in 20 days to BY ROBERT . BALL traverse the same amount of seafloor that he had explored in all the previous ten years. Ballard gave members of the ten-man crew an impromptu lecture on plate tectonics, his special area of interest. His highly acclaimed book on the subject, Exploring Our Living Planet, has become a best-selling Geographic publication-and is the first major National Geographic Society book to be printed in Japanese. In the Irish Sea, headed for port, Kristof went topside to shoot stills and video footage from the sub's diving plane. Designing cam eras to operate in the ocean depths is a Kristof specialty. "I often draw diagrams on napkins and send them to the Geographic's master ma chinist, Al Chandler, who fabricates the equipment," he explains. Their high-tech products have photographed giant tube worms more than 8,000 feet down in the Gala pagos Rift and recorded the British bark Breadalbanedeep under Arctic ice.