Bolted inside a steel sphere deep underwater, these explorers made history

To see a “world of life almost as unknown as that of Mars,” two explorers climbed inside the bathysphere and descended into the sea’s cold depths in 1931.

After a dive of a quarter-mile beneath the ocean, we had looked upon a world wholly new to human eyes, as strange as a Martian landscape. (The author to the left, Mr. Barton to the right.)
Photograph from William Beebe

Several years ago I climbed overboard into the clear waters of Haiti, and after a copper helmet had been lowered over my head and shoulders I slid slowly down a rope two, four, eight, ten fathoms and finally at sixty-three feet my canvas shoes settled into the soft ooze near a coral reef. I made my way to a steep precipice, balanced on the brink, and looked clown, down into the green depths where illumination like moonlight showed waving sea-fans and milling fish far beyond the length of my hose.

It would have been exceedingly unwise to go much farther, for the steady force of the weight of water at ten fathoms had already increased the pressure on eardrums and every portion of my head and body to almost forty-five pounds for each square inch. At double the depth I had reached I would probably become insensible and unable to ascend.

As I peered down I realized I was looking toward a world of life almost as unknown as that of Mars or Venus—a world in which, up to the present time, our efforts at capturing the inhabitants have been pitifully trivial. Modern oceanographic knowledge of deep-sea fish is comparable to the in formation of a student of African animals, who has trapped a small collection of rats and mice but is still wholly unaware of antelope, elephants, lions and rhinos.

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