National Geographic


Expedition Journal

Predive Preparations

Sydney Harbour, Australia

The team is getting better. Yesterday it took five hours to run the checklist; today things are moving faster.

At 11 a.m., the sub hanger fills with men whose task is to make sure the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER is ready for her first manned dive. John Garvin is inside the crew sphere going through the checklist: power control, life-support systems, vertical and horizontal thrusters, instruments, lighting. Dr. Glenn Singleton is on a ladder leaning over the open hatch, relaying messages and equipment to John.

Walt Condi is preparing to pour 300 pounds (136 kilograms) of steel shot into a container in the lower pod. “Clear thrusters!” someone shouts. Three of the six horizontal thruster blades spin for ten seconds and stop. Nic Bingham walks slowly down the port side of the sub, inspecting each of its 32 lithium-ion batteries. David Wotherspoon studies the upper pod, trying to figure out where he might fasten a tracking buoy. Co-designer Ron Allum stands quietly in a corner of the white hanger, watching everything.

Jim is everywhere at once. He checks the thrusters as they spin. He listens as Ben Orchard, a sphere electronic specialist sitting at a computer in front of the sub, talks to John: “Oxygen pressure, OK. Carbon dioxide scrubber, OK.” Jim removes his work gloves, puts them in his back pocket, and takes a long look around. When the team is finished, he’ll climb into the crew sphere, run through the pilot’s checklist, close the hatch, and dive his green machine for the very first time.

Written by Dr. Joe MacInnis

Photograph by Joe MacInnis

Science Partners

  • Additional major support provided by The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
  • NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego
  • University of Hawaii at Manoa
  • University of Guam