He takes his ride in a high tech bathysphere. The bathysphere was invented in the late 1920’s by Otis Barton and William Beebe to observe deep-sea animals in their natural habitat. These brave explorers would climb into the 1 inch thick steel sphere and the hatch would be bolted shut. For oxygen they breathed in cannned air, used trays of chemicals to absorb CO2, and circulated the air by hand with palm fans.
A crane lowered the craft on a cable half a mile down into the ocean. Their windows were giant plugs of fused quartz. General Electric provided a lamp to illuminate animals and Bell Laboratories provided a telephone system so that the sphere could communicate with the surface.
Down at such crushing depths there were many ways to die. One thing they didn’t worry about was drowning: due to the immense pressure any leak meant that “the first few drops of water would have shot through flesh and bone like steel bullets.”
Not only did they broadcast some of their dives over national radio, they also brought film cameras to record many fish new to science, and set many new depth records. Because they could not bring back the specimens they observed many of the alien and bizarre creatures could not be confirmed until many years later. Some of those beasts have still not been confirmed at all. Beebe wrote an article for National Geographic titled “A Half Mile Down: Strange Creatures Beautiful and Grotesque as Figments of Fancy, Reveal Themselves at Windows of Bathysphere”.
Soon the bathysphere was made obsolete by advances in submarine technology. The New York Zoological society loaned the craft to the U.S. Navy and later the World’s Fair. It ended up in an exhibit in the New York Aquarium, but was later moved to storage for almost a decade under the Coney Island Cyclone.
Imagine a group of curious boys crawling under the Coney Island boardwalk and finding the silent hulk half buried in the sand. The brass bolts, green with rust, are unyielding. They throw rocks at the strange thick windows and they bounce off, sending deep gongs across the steel shell and through their skin.
Something skitters to life inside the bathysphere but the sound is lost as the roller coaster rattles overhead. What grotesque creatures had been spotted out those windows so long ago, never to be seen again? Something uncoils beneath the sand. The Cyclone thunders by again, snatching up the screams of children into its chorus.