Bathyscaphe Trieste, before its only dive into the Mariana Trench

A bathyscaphe (f/ or f/) is a free-diving self-propelled deep-sea submersible, consisting of a crew cabin similar to a bathysphere, but suspended below a float rather than from a surface cable, as in the classic bathysphere design.[1]

The float is filled with gasoline because it is readily available, buoyant, and, for all practical purposes, incompressible. The incompressibility of the gasoline means the tanks can be very lightly constructed, since the pressure inside and outside the tanks equalises and they are not required to withstand any pressure differential at all. By contrast, the crew cabin must withstand a huge pressure differential and is massively built. Buoyancy at the surface can be trimmed easily by replacing gasoline with water, which is denser.

Auguste Piccard, inventor of the first bathyscaphe, composed the name bathyscaphe using the Ancient Greek words βαθύς bathys ("deep") and σκάφος skaphos ("vessel"/"ship").

Mode of operation

To descend, a bathyscaphe floods air tanks with sea water, but unlike a submarine the water in the flooded tanks cannot be displaced with compressed air to ascend, because the water pressures at the depths for which the craft was designed to operate are too great. For example, the pressure at the bottom of the Challenger Deep is more than seven times that in a standard "H-type" compressed gas cylinder. Instead, ballast in the form of iron shot is released to ascend, the shot being lost to the ocean floor. The iron shot containers are in the form of one or more hoppers which are open at the bottom throughout the dive, the iron shot being held in place by an electromagnet at the neck. This is a fail-safe device as it requires no power to ascend; in fact, in the event of a power failure, shot runs out by gravity and ascent is automatic.

Internal arrangement of Trieste.
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