DEEP DIVE--The SOCAL Connection

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Posted by SDM on March 28, 2012 at 18:15:33:

One of the current best kept secrets is Jim Cameron's solo dive several days ago to the bottom of Marinas trench..35,000 + feet straight down.

He is the third man in history to make the dive...what follows is a bit of the Southern California and my involvement with deep submergence and some of the pioneers of the industry.

The second model the "FRNS 11" was dove to 20,000 feet by two Frenchmen and published a book which I have in my library but can't seem to locate at this moment

The the third boat the "Trieste" FRNS 111 was purchased buy the USN and shipped to San Diego California where it under went numerous modifications and testing

The Trieste the "FRNS 111" was the first boat to reach the bottom of the trench - the deepest known trench in the worlds oceans.

The first US deep dive was by Dr. Andy Rechnitzer- to 20,800 feet to "test" the integrity of the hull, the hull joints and the concept of the bathyscaphe. It was successful, and broke the French record so preparations were made for the record dive.

The record dive was to have been made by Andy & Lt. Don Walsh USN, but the designer's son Jacques Piccard, who was along as an advisor demanded that he dive with Lt Walsh--to avoid an international confrontation Andy Rechnitzer, always a gentleman gave up his position tp Piccard.

It was not a good decision Walsh & Rechnitzer are-were small in stature...Piccard was about 6-5 or 6-6 so the tiny sphere was over crowed with Piccard's extremities.

The dive was a success and Rechnitzer, Walsh and Piccard were acknowledged as the pioneers this historical event and were presented with numerous national and international honors.

There is a SoCal Orange county post script aka "back side" to this story..

I met with Andy about a year later, he was the Chief of the Undersea Projects Office (UPO) of North American avation -later Rockwell International, now Boeing. He was heading up a group to construct a Deep Diving Submarine (DDS) which was to be called the "Beaver." I was hired as a CDO & DSO of UPO...It was the beginning of a life long association.

I recall when he said my resume was good but I needed back up sheets, so he gave me a copy of his-wow! I followed his advise now my back up sheets to my resume aka CV is over 20 pages

We were accidently reunited about 15 years ago. By that time Martha, Andy's first wife had passed on and he had accidently reunited with his high school girl friend Alice and they had hit it off and married. It was interesting reuniting -- I enjoyed meeting and chatting with Alice and my wife Betty and Andy got along like old long lost friends. In our many conversations we discovered a CenCal connection-Alice's daughter Norma Ritter and her husband owned Alex's Bar bar q in Shell Beach ( a section of Pismo Beach)

At that time e mail was becoming popular so we began e mailing, often every day, about every thing under the sun. He would often correct my spelling or grammar...One day I became just a little irritated and asked him why? He replied it was a habit. When he was in grad school at Scrips he had average skills in spelling and grammar but that would not be acceptable for his chairman the great Dr Carl Hubbs. He made Andy type and and re type his dissertation for not once but 16 times until it was absolutely perfect= no misspelled words, perfect grammar and no strike overs- he apologized to me for his habit, but keep on correcting my e mails to the very end.

Then the diving world learned that Andy was in the hospital- we all hoped for a speedy recovery but it was not to be..Andy left us..But with many memories of adventures past.

The Under Seas Project office was composed of some very interesting people with very interesting backgrounds. A few examples;

Second in command was Dr. Richard Terry, who is the only American to have the sea mount "Mount Terry" named in his honor in the Challenger deep. Dick wrote his doctoral dissertation on the migration of California kelp beds -talk about interesting coffee break conversations! While employed he also wrote the book, "The case for the submersible" which some one walked off with my copy.

As a geologist he was interested in rocks, his home on Cave Avenue in Anaheim had the entrance wall covered with a variety of rocks from all over the world. I was actively diving and exploring the then unexplored Jade Cove at that time. I pulled up so many rocks in those days I had them piled all over the yard and were gifting them to any one who would take them, so I piled a selection in my truck drove over to Dicks and gave him a his choice. He chose a huge wonderful green Jade Rock which he immediately attached to his wall of rocks. Dick has been gone some years now... I have often wondered about that wall of rocks and the new owners of the home

Jens Jensen the photographic officer on the Trieste gave me a pair of strobes that were used on the Trieste Challenger dive..I still have them, tried to donate them several times without success. All though I was a charter member of LA Co UPS and one of the founders of OCUPS Jens taught me a lot about UW photography and lighting during those pioneering underwater photographic days.

Ralph White was hired as a diver/sub operator. It was Ralph's first job after a stint in the USMC- any question was always answered with a Yes Sir! Took a long time to break Ralph of that habit and for him to use our first names. After the team disbanded Ralph became a free lance DDS driver... He had the record for the number Titanic dives. He dove on the Titanic so many times that he had more time on the deck of the Titanic than the paying passengers who went down with the ship.

l recall our last conversation -we had a long set down chat at the LA Explorers club, a few months later he had a massive heart attack in the comfort of his home and was gone-better there than in a DDS on the deck of the Titanic

Ed Cargile became a writer and published a number of articles and one heck of a great historical CD book. Some reason I have totally lost track of Ed.

Then there was the "Summer Hire" who shared a space in my office, his name was Bobbie Ballard. He was one of the most intelligent inquisitive young men I have ever met and in the current vernacular he could be a PIA. He was interested in spearfishing so I took him spear fishing with me on numerous occasions. That is a story for another time ...

The following summer I met and trained his girl friend and future wife to dive. A few months later they were off to grad school and disappeared for several decades. Bob emerged as Dr. Robert Ballard, the world famous underwater explorer and has authored numerous books..And I don't have one of them!

The DDS "Beaver"

The Bever was never totally operational . It was sold to the late Andre Galerne of International Underwater Contractors (IUC) who put it into service. Don Barthellmess who is now an Instructor at the Santa Barbara Marine tec program was the driver of the Beaver when it was operational. It's last resting place of the fifty year old DDS Beaver was in Houston Texas at a storage yard, slowly rusting away and falling apart


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