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Monday, November 3, 2008

Jacques Piccard, Scientist Who Explored the Deep Seas, Dies at 86

GENEVA (AP) — Jacques Piccard, a scientist and underwater explorer who plunged deeper beneath the ocean than any other man, died Saturday, his son’s company said. He was 86.

Pierre Andrieu/A.F.P. — Getty Images

Jacques Piccard in 2001.

Mr. Piccard died at his Lake Geneva home in Switzerland, according to the company, Solar Impulse.

Exploration ran in the Piccard family. Mr. Piccard’s father, Auguste, a physicist, was the first man to take a balloon into the stratosphere. His son, Bertrand, was the first man to fly a balloon nonstop around the world.

Jacques Piccard helped his father invent the bathyscaphe, a vessel that allows people to descend to great depths. On Jan. 23, 1960, he and Lt. Don Walsh of the United States Navy took the vessel, named the Trieste, into the Mariana Trench in the Pacific to a depth of 35,800 feet, nearly seven miles below sea level. It remains the deepest human dive ever.

“By far the most interesting find was the fish that came floating by our porthole,” Mr. Piccard said. “We were astounded to find higher marine life forms down there at all.”

Solar Impulse said the discovery of living organisms at such a depth played a crucial role in the prohibition of nuclear waste dumping in ocean trenches.

After the dive, Mr. Piccard continued to research the deep seas and worked for NASA.

He also built four mid-depth submarines, mesoscaphes, including the first tourist submarine. During the Swiss National Exhibition in 1964, he took 33,000 passengers into the depths of Lake Geneva.

Born in Brussels in 1922, Mr. Piccard was 9 when his father took his balloon into the stratosphere. He studied in Switzerland and worked as a university economics teacher, but abandoned teaching to help his father design the bathyscaphe.

Information about his survivors was not immediately available.

In April 1999, when Bertrand Piccard completed a round-the-world balloon trip with a Briton, Brian Jones, his team drew on Jacques’s experiences in the Gulf Stream to work out how best to use the jet stream to speed the balloon around the world.

They also made use of some of the ideas used by Auguste Piccard in his pioneering flights, including the notion of only partly inflating the balloon at takeoff to allow for the expansion of the gases at higher altitudes, and the use of an airtight capsule.

In a statement on Saturday, Bertrand Piccard said his father “passed on to me a sense of curiosity, a desire to mistrust dogmas and common assumptions, a belief in free will, and confidence in the face of the unknown.”


tanyaa November 4, 2008 at 6:09 AM  

Jacques Piccard , the deep sea explorer, no more : The last of the great research explorers of the 20th century and a pioneer of deep sea research and a committed fighter for eco-preservation died at the age of 86 on Saturday 1.11.2008 in Genf . The swiss scientist was one of the first to dive to the deepest point of the earth. He proved that even in these depths life existed.