The heat coming off the electronics system pushed the temperature to 102°F (39°C) inside the sphere. Humidity was 100 percent. For three hours, Jim was swimming in his own sweat.
This was the first time Jim piloted a dive in the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER. Just after sunset, he was lowered into the warm water of the ship basin. His objective was to test every system, including acoustic and VHF communications, compass, sonar, altimeter, depth gauge, thrusters, camera, lighting pan-tilts, and the hydraulics that open the science door and operate the manipulator extension rail, manipulator, and camera and lighting booms.
He kept the sub 3.3 feet (1 meter) below the surface and used the thrusters to get a feeling for its turning authority. He extended the camera and lighting booms and tested the lights in different “scene” settings. Near the end of the dive, he dropped the ascent weights.
It wasn’t a perfect dive, but first dives never are. Back on deck, Jim opened the hatch and thanked his team. “We just made a one-meter dive,” he said. “Only 10,999 meters to go.”
Photograph by Joe MacInnis