Ocean exploration past, present, and future (images)
In 1960, Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard became the first--and only--humans to dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. But ocean exploration, though neglected, is gaining steam.
Trieste hoisted out of water
After returning from the world's first--and to this date, only--manned dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the world's deepest point, Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard wave. Their dive, aboard the Navy bathyscaphe Trieste, took place on January 23, 1960.
No manned mission has returned to that point, a fact that illustrates that humanity has not favored ocean exploration, instead preferring to put more time, energy and money into space exploration.
But on Thursday, Walsh and Piccard--who is now dead--will be honored at a gala event at the Press Club in Washington, D.C., celebrating the 50th anniversary of their dive. As part of the event--which had to be scheduled a few months after the actual anniversary due to Walsh's unavailability in January--Walsh will be awarded the National Geographic Society's Hubbard Medal, the organization's highest honor. Walsh will also receive the U.S. Navy's Distinguished Public Service Award.
In this image, we see the Trieste as it is hoisted out of the water in either 1958 or 1959, not long after the Navy purchased the vessel.
This image, taken in 1958 or 1959, not long after the U.S. Navy bought the Trieste, shows a close-up view of the vessel's pressure sphere. In it, it is possible to see the instrument leads and the plexiglass window, and in the upper left of the image, the forward ballast silo, including a metering valve on its bottom.
The Okeanos Explorer, which is operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Originally a military ship, the Okeanos has been retrofitted to be an ocean exploring vessel, and is intended to travel the globe, mapping as much of the seafloor as possible. The ship will carry a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), an unmanned submersible that can dive to 6,000 meters below the surface. By sending data back over fiber-optic cables, the ROV will be able to transit high-definition video and high-resolution images to the surface and beyond. Using telepresence, the Okeanos will allow scientists and other researchers anywhere in the world to see what the ROV is seeing, in real time.
A command center where scientists and other researchers can see video and examine data sent back from the Okeanos Explorer and its remotely operated vehicle (ROV), an unmanned submersible that can reach 6,000 meters below the surface of the ocean.
Tim Shank, a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute biologist, was co-chief scientist of an expedition in May 2009 to send the Nereus, a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. The Nereus was the first vessel to reach the bottom of the trench, which is 36,201 feet below the surface, since 1998. But no human has been that deep since 1960, when Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard took the Navy bathyscaphe Trieste there.
On April 22, Earth Day, Disney Nature will release "Oceans," a feature film about the world's largest bodies of water and, among other things, the exploration that can take place in the oceans. The film is narrated by Pierce Brosnan. Here, a school of fish spins tightly in the blue sea.
The Necker Nymph, a model of DeepFlight Merlin, a 3-person submersible built by Hawkes Ocean Technologies, was purchased by Richard Branson and delivered to Branson's private Island, Necker. The vessel "represents a new class of high-performance, positively buoyant vehicles which safely extend the overall capabilities of scuba, while offering the unique experience of underwater flight. Unlike all conventional submersibles which use ballast to sink in the water, the DeepFlight submersibles uses downward 'lift' on the wings to fly down to depth," according to Hawkes Ocean Technologies.
Richard Branson's DeepFlight Merlin, built by Hawkes Ocean Technologies, seen under water. The vessel, known as the Necker Nymph, glides "on the water's surface like an airplane on a runway...[One] the three pilots will operate the joystick to smoothly dive down, and the thrilling experience begins," Hawkes Ocean Technologies says of the DeepFlight Merlin. "Uncover ancient shipwrecks, fly side-by-side with dolphins, or spyhop with whales; the
options are endless. With the flexibility to glide peacefully over glorious reefs or bank adventurously in 360-degree turns, the sub is hydrobatic. Individual 'wind shields' remove the pressure of slipstream, enabling comfortable speed and ranges previously unthinkable without enclosing the pilots. The open cockpits afford near ideal 360-degree viewing for occupants, creating a uniquely open experience."