A US Navy submarine captain set a dive record when he went to Challenger Deep, the deepest part of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean, also known as the deepest point on the planet at 35,814 ft below sea level.
Video Credits: Naval History And Heritage
This almost impossible task was fulfilled by Capt Don Walsh, born on 2nd November 1931.
After attending the US. Naval Academy, he was commissioned as a naval officer in 1954.
He was appointed as the officer-in-charge of the Trieste Bathyscope in San Diego, California in 1959. Designed by Swiss Physicist Auguste Piccard and constructed in Italy, the French Navy first operated the Trieste for conducting research in the Mediterranean Sea.
It was bought by the Office of Naval Research in 1958 for $250,000, or over $2.6 million in 2023.
Trieste is a deep-sea submersible made to function from a mothership and cannot operate freely like a submarine. It was built to dive underwater, conduct research operations and return to the surface.
It measures 59 ft and is 6 inches long, with most of its area taken by gasoline and water tanks that provide buoyancy. It could accommodate two people in 38 square inches of space.
When it was bought by the Navy, its 20,000-foot diving capability enabled it to reach a significant part of the ocean floor, but they required it to go deeper. Hence a second pressure sphere was added to the submersible to reach 36 000 feet.
Capt Don Walsh was involved in assemblage, tests and training dives in San Diego before Trieste was taken to Guam on 5th Oct 1959.
As a part of Project Nekton, Walsh was to take Trieste to the bottom of the Mariana Trench and become the first officer to reach the Challenger Deep.
It was a rather dangerous mission; however, Walsh was ready to achieve the seemingly impossible.
Accompanied by Destroyer escort USS Lewis, Trieste took the dive beneath the Pacific at 08:23 hours on 23rd Jan 1960. Inside it was Walsh and Jacques Piccard, the son of Treste’s designer.
Trieste touched the ocean floor after 4 hours and 47 minutes, going at a descent rate of 2 miles per hour. After crossing 30,000 ft, one of its outer window panes cracked, and it shook but reached the Challenger Deep without any major issues.
Trieste spent 20 minutes at the deepest point on earth, and during that time, Walsh and Piccard observed the rare deep sea creatures and recorded the ocean floor as made of a “diatomaceous ooze.” They came back to the surface in 3 hours and 15 minutes.
After this historic dive, they were given medals by President Eisenhower. Since then, explorer Victor Vescovo broke the diving record at 38,853 ft.
Walsh was a part of the Navy for 24 years and, in his tenure, worked in many important positions. He became a part of the U.S. National Advisory Committee on Oceans and Atmosphere and served on the U.S. National Research Council’s Marine Board from 1990 to 1993.
In 2010, he was awarded the National Geographic Society’s highest honour, the Hubbard Medal and the Navy’s Distinguished Public Service Award.
If you wish to see the Trieste, it is displayed at the National Museum of the US Navy in Washington, D.C.
References: wearethemighty, yahoo
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