Jacques Piccard

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Jacques Piccard : biography

22 July 1922 – 1 November 2008

Jacques Piccard (28 July 19221 November 2008) was a Swiss oceanographer and engineer, known for having developed underwater vehicles for studying ocean currents. He and Lt. Don Walsh of the United States Navy were the first people to explore the deepest part of the world’s ocean, and the deepest location on the surface of the Earth’s crust, the Challenger Deep, in the Mariana Trench located in the western North Pacific Ocean.

Challenger Deep mission

Jacques sought financial help from the U.S. Navy, which at that time was exploring various ways of designing submarines for underwater research. Jacques was welcomed to the U.S. to demonstrate his bathyscaphe, now named the Trieste. Impressed by his designs, the U.S. Navy bought the vessel and hired Piccard as a consultant. Recognizing the strategic value of a workable submersible for submarine salvage and rescue, the Navy began testing the Trieste for greater depths.

With his Trieste able to reach depths of 24,000 feet, Piccard and his colleagues planned on an even greater challenge—a voyage to the bottom of the sea. On 23 January 1960, Piccard and Lt. Don Walsh reached the floor of the Mariana Trench located in the western North Pacific Ocean. The depth of the descent was measured at 10,916 meters (35,813 feet); later, more accurate, measurements during 1995 found the Mariana Trench to be slightly less deep at 10,911 m (35,797 ft). The descent took almost five hours. The bathyscaphe carried no scientific equipment and no experiments were conducted; the mission’s purpose was merely to prove that the depth could be reached. The descent progressed without incident until 30,000 feet, when the crew heard a loud crack. They continued the dive, however, finally touching down in "snuff-colored ooze" at 35,800 feet.

When they reached the featureless seabed, they saw a flat fish as well as a new type of shrimp. Marine biologists later disputed their observations, claiming that no fish could survive the 17,000 psi pressure at such depths. Upon discovering cracks in the viewing windows, Piccard cut the voyage short. After only a 20-minute stay on the bottom, they began dumping ballast for their return to the surface, and the damaged vessel returned to its escort ships without incident in three hours and 15 minutes.

The historic dive received worldwide attention, and Piccard wrote an account of it, Seven Miles Down, with Robert Deitz, a renowned geologist who had helped plan the mission. A planned return expedition, however, never occurred. The Trieste was expensive to maintain and operate. It was incapable of collecting samples and could not take photographs and so had little scientific data to show for its voyages. The original vessel was retired in 1961, although a rebuilt version later located the remains of two lost U.S. Navy nuclear submarines, the Thresher and the Scorpion.

Other activities

Piccard was the founder of the Foundation for the Study and Protection of Seas and Lakes, based in Cully, Switzerland.

Jacques Piccard constructed four submarines and applied for at least one US patent (D200,506) for a submarine:

  • Auguste Piccard, the world’s first passenger submarine
  • Ben Franklin (PX-15)
  • F.-A. Forel
  • PX-44

Influence and distinctions

Ambient artists Mathieu Ruhlmann and Celer collaboratively released an album called Mesoscaphe in 2008, dedicated to the voyage of the Ben Franklin.http://www.spekk.net/catalog/mesoscaphe.html

He was awarded the Howard N. Potts Medal in 1972.

On 1 February 2008, Piccard was honored Doctor honoris causa at the Catholic University of Louvain (Louvain-la-Neuve).

Family life

Jacques Piccard was born in Brussels, Belgium to Auguste Piccard, who was himself an adventurer and engineer. Jacques’ father Auguste twice beat the record for reaching the highest altitude in a balloon, during 1931–1932. The Piccard family thus has the unique distinction of breaking world records for both the highest flight and the deepest dive.http://www.answers.com/topic/jacques-piccard