The history of deep-sea submersibles started with Dr William Beebe’s Bathysphere in the early 1930s. The craft was used for four years off Bermuda and dived to a depth of over 90 ft (30 m). Since then submersibles have been used in a variety of fields: oceanography, ocean engineering (the oil industry, ocean salvage), archaeology and fisheries.
Bathyspheres were tethered to the mother ship, so they were not very maneuverable. In the late 1940s Auguste Piccard developed the bathyscaphe. The name is derived from two Greek words, bathys, meaning deep, and scaphos, meaning ship. Piccard’s craft allowed the crew to descend several miles beneath the sea in a free-swimming vessel.
Deep-sea submersibles came of age in 1960 when the bathyscaphe Trieste descended to 35,000 ft (10,668 m) into the Marianas Trench in the Pacific Ocean, the world’s deepest water. The design concept of the bathyscaphe has been the basis for all succeeding manned submersibles.
The Trieste was followed by a series of other craft. The U.S. Navy built the DSRV (Deep Submergence Rescue Vessel), which can dive to more than 5000 ft (1525 m) and rescue 24 people on each dive.
Another U.S. Navy vessel is the DSSV (Deep Submergence Search Vessel). The NR1 is the world’s first nuclear-powered vessel designed for peaceful purposes – it can dive to depths of 20,000 ft (6100 m).