In the exploration of the underwater world, the bathyscaphe is one of the most used vehicles due to its design and its ability to explore the deep sea, withstanding the high pressures of the ocean.


Key questions

  • What kind of vehicle is it? Submersible
  • Who invented it? Augusto Picard
  • In what year was the first one made? 1937
  • How deep can it go down? More than 11,000 meters

What is the bathyscaphe?


The bathyscaphe is a submersible vehicle designed to explore deep sea and withstand high pressures . Its name comes from ancient Greek and means deep boat. This submersible boat was invented by Auguste Picard and his first dive was in 1948 , in Cape Verde, reaching a depth of 1080 meters. Currently, there are bathyscaphs that can descend 11,000 meters deep. Bathyscaphs have a propulsion that allows them to dive thousands of meters deep . Thanks to a ballast of lead spheres and a tanker of gasoline or a liquid lighter than water, it can descend to the depths and float when it emerges to the surface. These boats can be manned by one or more people and are equipped with technologies that allow them to record, measure and even rescue objects from the bottom of the sea thanks to their mechanical arms.

This minisubmarine has been very useful for nautical research since it comes equipped with cameras and other tools that allow you to record, measure and even rescue objects from the seabed.

It should not be confused with the submarine because, the submarines can only reach a depth of 1500 meters, while the bathyscaphe can currently reach up to 11,000 meters deep .

  • History of the bathyscaphe
  • Characteristics of the bathyscaphe
  • Applications
  • How does the bathyscaphe work?

History of the bathyscaphe

It was designed by the Swiss physics professor Augusto Picard , who wanted to create an underwater vessel that would move deep under the sea without the use of cables.

The first was manufactured in 1937 , had a spherical shape and weighed 15 tons. A tank full of gasoline was attached to it to help the bathyscaphe float. The bathyscaphe carried spheres of lead to descend to the depth and two propellers to move in any direction.

In 1948, tests were carried out with an unmanned bathyscaphe. This one submerged up to 1,500 meters but when a hurricane that passed at that moment came out, it caused serious damage to the boat.

In 1953, Picard created in Italy the “Trieste” another bathyscaphe that managed to descend in the Gulf of Naples to 3,500 meters of depth. This time, the boat was manned by Picard’s son, Jacques Picard.

Five months later, the French managed to descend in their FNRSIII Bathyscaphe to 4,800 meters deep on the African coast.

Six years later the “Trieste” was renovated and tested in the sea trenches of the Pacific Ocean between the Philippines and Japan . The bathyscaphe broke its old record by descending to a depth of 11,000 meters.

Characteristics of the bathyscaphe

Among the most outstanding characteristics of the bathyscaphe we can mention:

  • Its resemblance to a minisubmarine without being a submarine.
  • That can be manned by one or more people.
  • The cabin of the crew member (s) contains air at normal atmospheric pressure .
  • Its accessories such as cameras, mechanical arms and other technological tools allow it to collect objects, measure, record and store information at great depths.
  • Its ability to descend to the sea depths that can currently reach 11,000 meters deep.
  • Its cabin suspended under a tank that contains a liquid lighter than water, such as gasoline.
  • It has no cables connecting it to another boat on the surface or on land.
  • The propulsion of its electric motors allow it to move in the direction you want.


The bathyscaphe has always been used for underwater exploration because it reaches depths that the submarine has not been able to reach . Its design and size allow it to access smaller spaces than other types of boat and its technological accessories are very useful to collect information, either in data or physical objects that are submerged to be studied later on the surface.

How does the bathyscaphe work?

It is a boat that works with certain elements that allow it to descend or float in water and others that allow it to move.

This type of vehicle has a weight distributed in a ballast made up of lead spheres that allow it to submerge in the depths. Its weight was originally 15 tons, but currently this weight varies depending on the model.

It also has a tank filled with gasoline, a liquid lighter than water, which will allow it to float when it wants to emerge to the surface, releasing the lead ballasts that made it submerge.

The gasoline tank that is located in the lower part of the bathyscaphe allows the fuel to make contact with the water and gradually take the pressure of the underwater environment in which it is submerged.

It also has propellers that allow it to move forward and backward in different directions.

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