Bathyscaphe Trieste

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The Trieste was a Swiss-designed, Italian-built deep-diving research bathyscaphe ("deep boat") with a crew of two, which reached a record maximum depth of about 10,911 metres (35,797 ft), in the deepest known part of the ocean on Earth, the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench near Guam, on January 23, 1960.

Fifty years after their historic voyage, the two-man crew remain the only human beings to ever reach the bottom of Challenger Deep. The vessel is currently on display at the U.S. Navy Museum.



The Trieste was designed by the Swiss scientist Auguste Piccard and built in Italy. His pressure sphere, composed of two sections, was built by the company Acciaierie Terni, and the upper part was manufactured by the company Cantieri Riuniti dell'Adriatico, in the Free Territory of Trieste (on the border between Italy and Yugoslavia); hence that name was chosen for the bathyscaphe. The installation of the pressure sphere was done in the Cantiere navale di Castellammare di Stabia, near Naples. The Trieste was launched on 26 August 1953 into the Mediterranean Sea near the Isle of Capri. The design was based on previous experience with the bathyscaphe FNRS-2, also designed by the Piccards. (It was built in Belgium). Trieste was operated by the French Navy. After several years of operation in the Mediterranean Sea, the Trieste was purchased by the United States Navy during 1958 for $250,000.

The Trieste consisted of a float chamber filled with gasoline for buoyancy, with a separate pressure sphere. This configuration (dubbed a bathyscaphe by the Piccards), allowed for a free dive, rather than the previous bathysphere designs in which a sphere was lowered to depth and raised from a ship by cable.

At the time of Project Nekton, the Trieste was more than 15 m (50 ft) long. The majority of this was a series of floats filled with 85,000 liters (22,500 gallons) of gasoline, and water ballast tanks were included at either end of the vessel, as well as releasable iron ballast in two conical hoppers along the bottom, fore and aft of the crew sphere. The crew occupied the 2.16 m (7.09 ft) pressure sphere, attached to the underside of the float and accessed from the deck of the vessel by a vertical shaft that penetrated the float and continued down to the sphere hatch.

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