A Chronology of Undersea Exploration
Sir John Ross lowers a line more than a mile into the North Atlantic and hauls up worms and a large sea star.


Edward Forbes proposes that no substantial life can exist below three hundred fathoms.


The first transatlantic telegraph cable comes to life, its laying preceded by deep seabed surveys.


Darwin's Origin of Species implies that the deep is a sanctuary for living fossils.


Norwegians haul up from the deep a sea lily, a living fossil previously found only in rocks 120 million years old.


Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea depicts no life in the ocean's deepest regions.


British ship Challenger sails the globe while lowering dredges and other gear into the deep, finding long mountain chains, puzzling nodules, and hundreds of animals previously unknown to science.
Prince Albert of Monaco starts to probe the sea's dark midwaters, discovering new kinds of eels, fish, and squid.


Alexander Behm sails the North Sea and bounces sound waves off its bottom, advancing a new method of depth measurement known as echo sounding.


Fritz Haber launches the German Meteor expedition in a bid to extract gold from seawater.


William Beebe and Otis Barton descend in a tethered sphere to a depth of a half mile, where they glimpse a previously unseen world of living lights and bizarre fish.
Fishermen off South Africa pull up an ungainly five-foot fish identified as a coelacanth, a living fossil thought extinct since the days of the dinosaurs
Auguste Piccard dives in his bathyscaph, the first untethered craft that carried people into the deep.


Danish ship Galathea lowers dredges into the sea's deepest trenches and hauls up swarms of invertebrates.


British ship Challenger II bounces sound off the bottom, and near Guam finds what appears to be the sea's deepest chasm, its lowest point nearly seven miles down, subsequently named the Challenger Deep.


Marie Tharp, studying echo soundings, discovers that the Mid-Atlantic Ridge conceals a long rift valley, which turns out to be part of a hidden volcanic rent that girds the global deep.
Auguste Piccard and his son Jacques enter Trieste, an improved bathyscaph, and dive to a depth of nearly two miles.


American Navy buys Trieste and begins to strengthen its steel personnel sphere.


Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh dive in Trieste to bottom of Challenger Deep, seven miles down.


American ship off Mexico lowers a pipe through more than two miles of water and drills into the rocky seabed, a first that advances the fields of deep geology and mining.

Robert Dietz, studying echo soundings, proposes that the seabed's mountainous rifts are invisible scars where molten rock from the Earth's interior wells up periodically and spreads laterally to form new ocean crust, a process he calls seafloor spreading.
Thresher, America's most advanced submarine, sinks in waters a mile and a half deep with the loss of 129 men.
Trieste finds the shattered hulk of Thresher on the bottom after five months of searching.


American Navy founds the Deep Submergence Systems Project to develop new gear that can better probe the deep sea's darkness. Navy launches submersible Alvin, the first piloted craft able to roam the deep with relative ease.
Navy tests its first underwater robot.

Navy develops Halibut, a submarine that can lower miles of cables bearing lights, cameras, and other gear to spy on enemy armaments and materiel lost on the bottom of the sea.


Alvin and Navy robot probe the deep Mediterranean and retrieve a lost American hydrogen bomb.

Halibut spies on Soviet warheads abandoned to the deep.
Geologists, after fierce debate, agree that seafloor spreading involves a dozen or so huge plates that form the Earth's crust and move slowly over time, rearranging the land.
Soviet submarine sinks in the deep Pacific, littering seabed with secret code books and nuclear warheads.

In stealth, Halibut examines the lost Soviet sub.

American Navy sub Scorpion sinks in the Atlantic, killing 99 men and surrendering to the depths two torpedoes tipped with nuclear arms.


Trieste II, a new Navy bathyscaph, probes the Scorpion's wreckage more than two miles down and recovers the sub's sextant.


Navy launches first of two piloted craft that hitch rides atop submarines and dive deep for rescues and espionage.
Navy begins to design a type of tetherless robot, eventually known as the Advanced Unmanned Search System, for wide hunts of gear lost at depths up to nearly four miles.


Disguised as a seabed miner, American ship Glomar Explorer lowers a giant claw to grab a Soviet sub lost on the Pacific floor.

United Nations Law of the Sea conference proposes to tax seabed miners as a way of enriching poor nations.

French-American team dives to Mid-Atlantic Ridge and unexpectedly finds its rift valley paved with lava
American team dives in Alvin to a volcanic rift in the Pacific and discovers warm springs teeming with undescribed species of life, an ecosystem new to science that includes tubeworms, snakelike creatures standing upright in long tubes.


American team exploring Gulf of California with Alvin finds mineral chimneys that blow clouds of black smoke and discharge water hot enough to melt lead.


Scientists propose that the seabed's hot springs are the birthplace of all life on Earth.
Ronald Reagan becomes President and begins an arms buildup, including new classes of deep craft and new kinds of deep espionage.


Volcanic seamounts in Pacific are found to be covered with rare metals, including cobalt. United Nations Law of the Sea Treaty is finished and opened for ratification, saying deep minerals belong to the world's people.


Reagan proclaims Exclusive Economic Zone around the United States, effectively doubling the nation's size and fueling a burst of exploration in deep waters.
Robert Ballard tows tethered Navy craft Argo over the Thresher, scanning the lost sub's corroding wreckage with an array of video cameras.
American researchers diving off Florida in Alvin discover life swarming in cold springs,another new kind of deep ecosystem. Mikhail Gorbachev emerges as Soviet leader, starting conciliatory East-West policy.


Ballard lowers Navy craft Argo and discovers, more than two miles down, the Titanic, broken in two, many of its fixtures and artifacts scattered on the icy seabed.

Graham Hawkes's Deep Rover submersible reveals a riot of midwater life in the depths of Monterey Canyon, helping inspire billionaire David Packard to fund deep explorations.


New Navy robot Jason Junior probes the interior of the Titanic, and in secret missions explores the twisted wreckage of two sunken American submarines, Thresher and Scorpion.
American firm hires the French Nautile submersible to begin Titanic's salvage, hauling up thousands of items, including children's marbles and a lady's wristwatch.
First East-West treaty is signed that reduces nuclear arms.


Treasure hunters searching off South Carolina more than a mile down find the remains of the Central America, a wooden ship that sank in 1857, heavy with tons of California gold. Ballard tows Navy craft Argo over Mediterranean deep and discovers a graveyard of ancient ships, including a fourth-century Roman craft.


Ballard lowers Argo nearly three miles down in the Atlantic and finds German battleship Bismarck, a mass of deteriorating guns and fading swastikas.
Jason, Ballard's top robot for the Navy, debuts and recovers from the deep Mediterranean dozens of artifacts from lost Roman ships.
Berlin Wall crumbles.
Navy begins giving civilian researchers wide access to NR-1, a deep-diving nuclear submarine with lights, windows, and wheels.

Japan finishes Shinkai 6500, the world's deepest-diving piloted craft.

Russians in Mir submersibles probe Monterey Canyon, one of the first in a wave of post-cold-war dives for foreign customers.
American Navy agrees to share with civilian scientists a fleet of deep exploratory craft, including robots and submersibles.
 Mir submersibles dive more than two miles down and film Titianic wreckage for Canadian IMAX movie.

Soviet ship Yuzhmorgeologiya, which once spied on the submarines of the United States Navy, is hired by American government to do studies of deep ecology.

Soviet Union ceases to exist.


Scientists, after a large seabed survey, conclude that the deep may hold ten million species of life, far more than are known on land.
Ballard lowers Navy submersible Sea Cliff and Navy robot Scorpio to examine fourteen ships lost during World War Two at the battle of Guadalcanal.

CIA director Robert Gates tells Russian President Boris Yeltsin that Glomar Explorer recovered remains of six Soviet sailors, who were subsequently buried at sea.

American Navy adopts a new strategy in which fighting forces target shallow waters and regional conflicts, reducing the need for deep expertise.

Businessmen hire an American Navy contractor to dive on Titanic for commercial salvage.
Two American companies unveil laser cameras, formerly secret Navy tools for seeing long distances in the deep.
Federal scientists listen to Navy deep microphones and hear a deep volcanic outburst on the Pacific's Juan de Fuca Ridge, prompting a number of expeditions to study how heat on the dark seabed can beget a jungle of life.

Japan begins testing Kaiko, the world's deepest-diving robot.

French submersible Nautile dives on Titanic to recover artifacts.

Ballard lowers Navy Jason robot in Celtic Sea to probe the deteriorating remains of Lusitania, torpedoed by Germany in 1915.


American Navy agrees to share its attack submarines with civilian scientists for arctic studies.

Navy turns over the Advanced Unmanned Search System, an early tetherless robot, to private industry.

Shinkai 6500 sets an Atlantic depth record for a piloted vehicle, studying deep geology.
Russians in Mir submersibles carry British scientists down to Mid-Atlantic Ridge to study a huge volcanic mound laced with gold.

Nautile dives on Titanic to recover artifacts.

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea goes into force.


American experts use the robot Odyssey to search the dark water off New Zealand for the giant squid, the greatest of the sea's legendary beasts.
Kaiko dives to bottom of Challenger Deep, finding the icy darkness alive with small animals.

Paul Tidwell arms himself with naval spinoffs and finds in Atlantic waters more than three miles down the lost Japanese submarine I-52, which sank in 1944 heavy with tons of gold.
Ballard dives in Navy's NR-1 to map a field of deep Mediterranean wrecks, some more than 2,000 years old.

Mir submersibles film Titanic for a Hollywood movie.

American Navy releases seafloor gravity data, which civilian oceanographers turn into the first good public map of the global seabed.

Civilians start broadcasting deep sounds across the Pacific and listening with Navy microphones for changes in travel time, seeking to measure global warming.


Federal scientists listening to Navy microphones hear fury on the Gorda Ridge, prompting new studies of seabed volcanism.
The robot Jason, one of the Navy's top deep projects of the 1980s, makes its debut for a Federal scientific group, its first expedition probing hot vents on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

Navy widens access to its deep microphones, prompting the development of private acoustic observatories meant to listen for volcanic eruptions and whale songs.

The advanced robot Tiburon debuts at Packard's institute, ready to explore down to a depth of four kilometers, or two and a half miles.

Nautile dives on the Titanic to film the shattered hulk and recover artifacts, including a large section of the liner's hull.
Deep Flight makes its debut, taking Hawkes a step closer to flying into the Challenger Deep, seven miles down.
Directions:  Cut the above timeline (obtained from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/abyss/) into separate cards.  They work best when they are glued to cardboard or construction paper.  You can make several copies of the cards, or split the one set into several groups.
Students should sit in groups of 4-6.  Each person gets to draw one card from the pile. They may look at their card and place it face up on the table.  He first person draws a card without showing it to the other group members.  They read the facts to the person to their left, without reading the date. The person to whom the card is read must then determine whether the card happened before or after the card in their timeline that is already faced up. If they answer correctly, they get to keep the card and add it to their timeline.  If they answer incorrectly, then the card gets read to the next person (in a clockwise fashion). Once someone places the card in their timeline, then the 2nd person (the one next to the first person to whom the first question was posed) chooses a card from the pile and reads it to the person on their left. The card is read until someone correctly places it in their timeline.
This becomes more difficult as players acquire more card, because then they must place the event between two times if it occurs between two times that are already in their timeline.
The player with the most card in their timeline at the end of the game wins.