Swiss deep-sea explorer and engineer Jacques Piccard, who reached the deepest depths of the world’s oceans and pioneered the construction of deep-diving submersibles, died this weekend at the age of 86, in his Lake Geneva home.
Piccard’s legacy reaches from the depths of the ocean to the heights of space. His work on submersibles was funded by the US Navy, who used his designs to build later subs, while an epic month-long underwater mission he undertook helped NASA learn how to keep people working in cramped space stations for long periods.
Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh inside the bathyscaphe Trieste traveled to the bottom of the Marianas Trench in 1960. At 10,911 metres down the trench is the deepest point on Earth – only Piccard and Walsh have ever been there. Piccard designed and built Trieste with his father, Auguste, who was a notable engineer that had twice held the record for the highest manned balloon flight. Star Trek creator Gene Rodenberry has said he named his character Jean-Luc Picard in honour of Auguste and Jacques.
Piccard only filed one patent concerning his submersible technology. But versions of both the Trieste and Ben Franklin designs were used by the US Navy. Piccard also built three more submersibles, including an easily transportable one used for more than 2000 scientific and educational dives in European lakes and in the Mediterranean.
In 1968, Piccard built the Grumman/Piccard PX-15, also known as the Ben Franklin, for a six-man crew.
Equipped with only minimal propulsion, it was designed to spend a month underwater studying the Gulf Stream by simply drifting with it. The 15-metre craft carried tonnes of lead-acid batteries to provide power and submerged off Florida on July 14, 1969.
He also built the the Auguste Piccard, the world’s first passenger submarine, which took 33,000 tourists to the depths of Lake Geneva for the 1964 Swiss National Exhibition in Lausanne- ns