Opening the Great Depths

The Bathyscaph Trieste and Pioneers of Undersea Exploration

  • Subject: General Military & Naval History | Summer 2024 Sale
  • Format:
  • Pages:
  • Illustrations:
    32 b/w illustrations, 2 b/w figures
  • Published:
    May 15, 2021
  • ISBN-10:
  • ISBN-13:
  • Product Dimensions:
    9 × 6 × 1 in
  • Product Weight:
    26 oz
Hardcover $46.95
Member Price $37.56 Save 20%
Book: Cover Type


“We were certainly pioneers as the Trieste was one of only two such vehicles in the world—the French Navy’s bathyscaphe FNRS-3 was the other. It meant that we had to ‘write the book’ about deep submergence operations in terms of technique and technologies. We learned by doing and by failures, although very few of the latter were serious. For example, if we needed a piece of equipment we would have to design it and make it. There were no commercial vendors who catered to deep submergence technology requirements. The market was far too small.”—From the foreword by Capt. Don Walsh, USN (Ret.), PhD, U.S. Navy Submersible Pilot No. 1

Developed by French physicist Auguste Piccard and his son Jacques, the bathyscaph Trieste was a scientific marvel that allowed unprecedented scientific, technical, and military feats in the ocean depths. France and the United States both acquired and subsequently developed variants of the original bathyscaph. While both France and the United States employed the bathyscaph as a tool for scientific investigation of the deepest ocean depths, the U.S. Navy developed and employed the Trieste for military missions as well. From its earliest years, participants in the Trieste program realized that they were making history, blazing a trail into previously unexplored and unexploited depths, developing new capabilities and opening a new frontier. Comparisons with developments in space and the space-race between the United States and the Soviet Union often were made concerning the Trieste program and contemporary developments in undersea technologies and capabilities.

The Trieste opened the entire oceans to exploration, exploitation, and operations. The bathyscaph was a first-generation system, a “Model-T” that spawned an entirely new industry and encouraged new concepts for deep-ocean naval operations. Advances in deep-sea technologies lacked the “gee-whiz” factor of the concurrent spacerace, but were highly significant in the development of new technology, new knowledge, and new military capabilities.

Opening the Great Depths
is the story of the three Trieste deep-ocean vehicles, their officers and enlisted men, and the civilians, often told in their own words, documenting for the first time the earliest years of humanity's probing into Earth's final frontier.

About the Author

Editorial Reviews

“This is an exceptional and essential book, offering an authoritative assessment of the craft and the people who pioneered exploration of and working in the last great frontier on this planet, the deep ocean. I highly recommend it.” —James P. Delgado, aquanaut, archaeologist and author of War at Sea: A Shipwrecked History
“Thirty years after the Cold War, much of the Navy’s submarine service’s huge contribution to victory is still quite secret. Even less known are the contributions of the scientists and explorers whose daring expeditions in the deepest seas made those Navy successes possible. Now the ideal co-authors are able tell those amazing true tales. Combining science and adventure, Polmar and Mathers have produced a real page-turner.” —John Lehman, former Secretary of the Navy, author of Oceans Ventured and Winning the Cold War at Sea
“The authors tell a good story about these remarkable vehicles, the adventures experienced and the many personal risks taken by the people involved. They also discuss the technology and construction in laymen's terms. A great read for those interested in deep ocean and submarine technology.” —Capt. Charles M. Staehle, USNR (Ret.), first pilot of DSV’s-1 and TRIESTE Pilot No. 12
Opening the Great Depths is a fascinating account of the Trieste program, which enabled deep sea exploration for the first time, achieving unprecedented scientific and military feats. Polmar and Mathers do an amazing job weaving the technical details into a gripping account of the failures and successes achieved.  Explorers and scientists, plus ocean and military enthusiasts will thoroughly enjoy the journey as those aboard the Trieste descended into one of Earth’s most inhospitable environments—the ocean depths.” —Rick Campbell, #1 Bestselling author of The Trident Deception series
“Polmar and Mathers present an informative, entertaining, and fascinating story in Opening the Great Depths. This book will captivate readers.” —Ricochet
“The authors provide an important history for readers interested in undersea research.” —Navy Reads
Opening the Great Ocean Depths is an engaging tale with a colorful cast of characters that shows that those who dare, can achieve great things. Readers with an interest in the history of oceanographic exploration will find this an information work as will those interested in the evolution of U.S. Navy’s research into deep water operations. The book provides illuminating details of Trieste’s involvement in the search for both the USS Thresher and the USS Scorpion. An excellent addition to your maritime history library!” —Armchair General
“This book, at last, tells the story of the Trieste craft and the people who built and operated them.” —Seapower
“This is a work of valuable historical scholarship which fills in an important missing chapter in the history of ocean science. As the story of how a submersible invented by “back yard Edisons” was co-opted for military science and naval operations, this is an important work for understanding the history of U.S. naval patronage during the Cold War.... Opening the Great Depths provides necessary contextualization for understanding what made the bathyscaph a revolutionary vessel, and how this craft facilitated exploration of the ocean depths and shaped Cold War strategy in the second half of the twentieth century.” —H-Net
Opening the Great Depths is a detailed look at the technological development of deepsea bathyscaphes and manned expeditions into the deepest places of the planet…. Featuring a forward by retired Lieutenant Don Walsh, the book is a great read and stands as a significant contribution to maritime history.” —Sea History
—Winner of the John Lyman Book Award in the category of “Naval and Maritime Science and Technology”
“Opening the Great Depths is a detailed look at the technological development of deepsea bathyscaphes and manned expeditions into the deepest places of the planet…. Featuring a forward by retired Lieutenant Don Walsh, the book is a great read and stands as a significant contribution to maritime history.”—Sea History