Explore humanity’s underwater adventure at La Cité de la Mer in Cherbourg (26.12. 2011)

Explore humanity’s underwater adventure at La Cité de la Mer in Cherbourg

Cité de la Mer - JPEG This year La Cité de la Mer opened its Great Gallery, dedicated to the men and machines associated with the deep oceans. The exhibition gives visitors the chance to ‘take the plunge’ alongside some of the greatest adventurers in underwater exploration. Amongst other things, visitors can meet the people who wrote or are writing these chapters in the history of the sea and the vessels in which they lived.

From Fulton’s Nautilus, which reached a depth of 10 metres in 1800, to the Archimède, which plunged down to 9,545 m in 1962, La Cité de la Mer offers an immersion course in the international history of humanity’s underwater adventures. First-hand accounts, pictures and models depict the daring divers who defied the oceans to conquer a silent world that still holds the key to many mysteries. French, American, Russian and even Japanese vessels are all on display in a single place, from the Archimède and its inhabited sphere, to the Beebe and Barton bathysphere, the Globule, the Nautile and more. Details including maximum depth, the diameter of the inhabitable sphere and the number of crew members, combined with tales of underwater exploits help visitors to understand the very special conditions of diving on board a vessel of this kind.

A story of people and techniques

The exhibition also gives pride of place to some of the key players in underwater exploration and their accounts of those experiences. William Beebe tells the story of his record dive to a depth of 900 metres in 1934 on board a sphere 1.45 m in diameter linked to the surface by a cable! He and Otis Barton were true pioneers, the first to explore the ocean depths on board such a vessel. The two explorers were also the inventors of the bathysphere, which inspired their successors to develop safer and more efficient vessels. A re-creation of the sphere has been installed in front of the media library and will rise up in front of your very own eyes.

Other key figures in the history of underwater exploration also deserve a mention:

- Auguste Piccard, the explorer who inspired Hergé to create his character Professor Calculus, tells his own story. Having conquered the skies by reaching a record-breaking altitude of 16,200 metres in 1932 in a spherical gondola attached to a balloon, he then tackled the ocean depths with a variant of the same technique! He built his first bathyscaphe, the FNRS II, in 1948, followed by the famous Trieste, with which he achieved a depth of 3,150 metres in 1953. Auguste Piccard was one of the key players in the race to the depths which took place in the 1950s;

- the founder of the Comex (Compagnie maritime d’expertise), the daring Henri Germain Delauze, one of the leading innovators in the area of human deep-sea saturation diving, was the first man to achieve a saturation dive of 335 metres in May 1968. He tells us the story of the pioneers of offshore diving and of his own experiences;

- Paul-Henri Nargeolet recalls his “titanic” discoveries. After a 22-year career in the French Navy as an officer specialising in demining, diving and deep-sea operations, he was part of the Ifremer (French Research Institute for Exploration of the Sea) team for ten years. In 1987, he was one the few Frenchmen to explore the wreck of the Titanic for the very first time, on board the Nautile at a depth of 3,800 metres. Paul-Henri Nargeolet now lives in the United States and in autumn 2010 took part in the latest mission to explore the legendary liner.

Together, men and machines tell the epic story of the ocean’s explorers in this unique and emblematic exhibition at La Cité de la Mer in Cherbourg.

Delphine Barrais


publie le 26/12/2011

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