The Home of the Bathyscaph Trieste Alumni Association


The Original Trieste


The Trieste II


DSV-1 (Trieste II, second design)



A History of the Bathyscaph(s) Trieste as told by the men who operated and supported them.

Library of Photos and Stories

Recent activity:

·      2019 Reunion Cruise Photos

·      Restored Stories and Photos

·      Additional information regarding the USS POINT LOMA

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The first Bathyscaph, the FNRS-2, was conceived, designed, and constructed in, or shortly after, 1947, by Professor August Piccard, a Swiss physicist and inventor. The word Bathyscaph was coined by him from the Greek words BATHOS "deep", and SCAPHOS "ship", thus "Bathyscaph". This term is properly applied only to those deep submergence vehicles which use a gasoline-filled-float to carry the pressure sphere in which the operators ride.

In 1952 Professor Piccard began construction of the next Bathyscaph with the financial and technical support of many institutions, companies and individuals in Trieste, Italy. The Bathyscaph was launched on August 1, 1953 and christened "TRIESTE". She was constructed with a pressure sphere manufactured by "Societie Terni" which was designed to operate to a depth of 20,000 feet.

From 1953 through October 1957 the "BATISCAFO TRIESTE", as it was known in Italy, conducted 48 dives, to depths exceeding 12,000 feet and did not go unnoticed by the Italian Press, the general public or those wishing to commemorate her existence and accomplishments. Neither did those accomplishments go unnoticed by the United States Navy.

During 1957, TRIESTE was evaluated by the U.S. Office of Naval Research, subsequently purchased, and assigned to the Naval Electronics Laboratory, San Diego, California, where she arrived in December 1958. Its primary mission of TRIESTE was to assist and support the oceanographic research efforts of the United States Navy.

Many test programs and scientific projects involving ten dives, were conducted by TRIESTE during the next few years. Most significant of these was "PROJECT NEKTON" in which TRIESTE conducted a series of seven dives including three deep dives, climaxing on January 23, 1960 in a 35,800-foot descent into the "Challenger Deep". This abyss, the deepest known spot in the earth's oceans, had never been penetrated by a manned vehicle. The record set that day stands alone today. For this series of dives, TRIESTE was fitted with a new pressure sphere, manufactured by the "Krupp Werke (works)" of Germany and designed for operation to 36,000 feet.

That dive gained, not only a record which cannot be exceeded but, worldwide recognition of the TRIESTE and its occupants on that dive, Jacques Piccard, son of Auguste Piccard and Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh. (Walsh and Piccard in 1999. )

In April 1963, TRIESTE was transported from California to Boston, Massachusetts where it conducted a search for the wreckage of the submarine, USS THRESHER (SSN 593) which had sunk in the Atlantic Ocean on April 10,1963 with all hands. The first dive was conducted on June, 1963 at a depth of 8400 feet, 220 miles east of Boston. The fourth dive, piloted by Lt. George Martin, a six hour search at 9600 feet, was conducted on June 30, 1963. The fifth dive was piloted by Lt. Cdr. Donald Keach on June 29, 1963 at a depth of 9600 feet. Scattered debris was photographed and several pieces of the ship were recovered. This series of dives would not have been successful without the able assistance and support of the officers and crews of its Command Ship, USS Fort Snelling LSD-30, Tow Ship, USS Preserver ARS-8 and the scientists of the Research Ship, Robert D. Conrad. Search operations were terminated in the fall of 1963 due to adverse weather conditions. TRIESTE returned to San Diego, California following the initial THRESHER search.

After her return to California a newly constructed float assembly was fitted to the Terni pressure sphere, which had been used on the original TRIESTE, and the new vehicle was designated "TRIESTE II". The new float was very boxy in shape and marked a distinct change in the appearance of the Bathyscaph. The record seems to indicate that the Original Trieste and the Krupp Works sphere were permanently retired from service at about that time. The original TRIESTE is now on display at the Naval Historical Center, Washington D.C.

Following a series of test dives in the Spring of 1964, TRIESTE II was transported to the Atlantic to conduct a second search for the wreckage of THRESHER. Using the increased capabilities of TRIESTE II, five dives, during the months of July and August 1964, were made in the disaster area. On two of these dives scattered debris was again located and on a third dive major sections of the hull were located and closely photographed.

In March 1965, after her return to California, TRIESTE II was transferred to the Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet and Deep Submergence Systems Project Office (DSSP).

Between September 1965 and May 1966, TRIESTE II again underwent extensive modification and conversion at Mare Island Naval Shipyard but there is no clear record that she was ever operated in that new configuration, i.e., the addition of skeds or outriggers on both sides of the sphere.

During that same time period work was under way on a third configuration of the Bathyscaph. This work resulted in yet a new appearance for the TRIESTE II, and included the installation of a new pressure sphere, designed for operation to 20,000 feet.

Also, during that same period, there existed the seldom mentioned unit "Deep Submergence Group" at Ballast Point, San Diego, California. The Deep Submergence Group existed from approximately May 1965 until after September 1966 and operated the first configuration of the TRIESTE II, prior to and perhaps after addition of the skeds on either side of the sphere. In 1965 TRIESTE II (MOD 1) conducted dives to test the new "Straza" sonar, we now know, to be used on the TRIESTE II (DSV-1). During dive operations, off San Clemente Island north west of San Diego, California, a battery box on the TRIESTE II deck containing 13 batteries exploded and terminated the exercise. TRIESTE II surfaced safely, was towed to San Diego and sent to the Ship yard for repairs. It was during that overhaul that the TRIESTE II reached her final configuration, which I am now informed cannot be seen at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington DC, as I previously reported, because it was cut up and scuttled out in the deep Pacific Ocean. Nothing of it exists as far as has been reported to me. (Information reported by and thanks to Jack Brandt, ETCS(SS)). The Deep Submergence Group patch evolved into the Bathyscaph Trieste patch . The Deep Submergence Group plaque does not seem to have been carried forward.

During 1966 the new TRIESTE II,(version three) docked in WHITE SANDS (ARD-20) and towed by USS APACHE (ATF-67) conducted test and evaluation dives, servicing and recovery operations near San Diego, California to test the entire concept of operation from a support ship.

In August 1967 "Submarine Development Group One" was established. TRIESTE II and her crew became an integral part of this organization. During the remainder of 1967 and during 1968 the reconfigured TRIESTE II, APACHE, and WHITE SANDS operated in the Eastern Pacific.

In February 1969 an "Integral Operating Unit" (IOU) was formed, composed of USS APACHE (ATF-67), WHITE SANDS (ARD-20) and TRIESTE II. The IOU transited from San Diego, California to the Azores Islands, where it was joined on station by the USS RUCHAMKIN (LPR-89) , and returning to San Diego in October 1969. The mission for this deployment was to investigate the wreckage of the USS SCORPION (SSN 589), to survey and photograph the vessel, and to compile a report for use in determining the cause of the a loss of SCORPION. The submarine USS SCORPION (SSN 589) sank May 22, 1968 in more than 10,000 feet of water about 400 miles southwest of the Azores. During this operation, TRIESTE II completed nine dives to depths in excess of 10,000 feet and spent a great number of hours on the bottom conducting the search and in investigation. A number of pilots, co-pilots and observers saw duty during those operations. The Secretary of the Navy awarded the Navy Unit Commendation to the Integral Operating Unit for this achievement.

In 1970, TRIESTE II was placed in overhaul in San Diego. On completion, in the fall of that year, she was redesigned TRIESTE II (DSV-1). In September 1971 the I0U again deployed to the Central Pacific for tests, evaluation and recovery work and returning to San Diego in May 1972. During this period TRIESTE II (DSV-1) made three dives to 16,500 feet. That was the first time a submersible had successfully recovered objects from such a depth. For accomplishing this feat, TRIESTE II (DSV-1) received the Meritorious Unit Commendation.

In the Spring of 1973, the IOU deployed to the Eastern Pacific. Here it participated in another recovery operation during which TRIESTE II (DSV-1) recovered an unmanned deep submergence sled carrying oceanographic equipment, which had been lost at a depth of 10,699 feet. The cost to the Navy of replacing the sled would have exceeded a quarter of a million dollars, but for its recovery by TRIESTE II (DSV-1).

In August 1973, USS WHITE SANDS was reclassified an Auxiliary Deep Submersible Support Ship and re-designated AGDS-1.

In December 1973, TRIESTE II (DSV-1) entered Mare Island Naval Shipyard for overhaul. Shortly after, both USS APACHE (ATF67) and USS WHITE SANDS (AGDS-1) were decommissioned. At the same time, a dock landing ship (LSD) USNS POINT BARROW was being renamed USS POINT LOMA (AGDS-2) and designed to become the new support ship for TRIESTE. In mid-1974, USS POINT LOMA began conversion from a Saturn Missile transport ship to the Navy’s new Deep Submersible Support Ship.

 TRIESTE II (DSV-l) departed the shipyard in May 1975 and commenced at-sea testing of its major new electronics systems installed during the overhaul. Sea trial dives were conducted during late 1975 and early 1976.

TRIESTE II embarked in USS POINT LOMA (AGDS-2) for the first time in February 1977. The training dives which followed proved the ability of USS POINT LOMA (AGDS-2) to successfully launch and recover TRIESTE II (DSV-1), and prepare her for dive operations at sea. The final dive resulted in TRIESTE II being certified for operations to 17,250 feet.

The combination of TRIESTE II (DSV1) and USS POINT LOMA (AGDS-2) represented a vast improvement in the capability, mobility and versatility of the Navy’s deep submergence program. These ships placed 98% of the ocean depths within the reach of man.

In May 1977, USS POINT LOMA (AGDS-2) and TRIESTE II (DSV-1) departed San Diego, California on a deployment in support of the "Sea floor Geophysical Research Program" sponsored by the Office of Naval Research. In support of this mission, TRIESTE II (DSV-1) carried scientists to the ocean's floor in the "Cayman Trough", the "Puerto Rico Trench" and the "Blake-Bahama Outer Ridge". During this deployment TRIESTE II (DSV-1) was certified for operations to 20,000 feet and completed the deepest manned recovery of any object from the sea floor. After completion of 15 dives at four different dive sites, TRIESTE II (DSV-1) returned to San Diego on November 17, 1977. TRIESTE II (DSV-1) was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation after this deployment.

In 1978, TRIESTE II (DSV-1) deployed to Midway Island to recover military hardware from a depth of 16,000 feet.

TRIESTE II (DSV-1) deployed again to the Atlantic Ocean in 1979 in Support of Chief of Naval Operations tasking.

In the spring of 1980, TRIESTE II (DSV-1) deployed to the "Mid-America Trench". This deployment was to assist "Scripps Institution of Oceanography" in investigating plate tectonic dynamics within the trench. During that summer, TRIESTE II (DSV-1) deployed to Hawaii in support of CNO tasking and to search for the 'Remote Underwater Work System", an unmanned vehicle lost at a depth of 16,500 feet.

After August of 1980, TRIESTE II (DSV-1) was placed in a reduced operating status awaiting the conversion of the "Deep Submergence Vehicle SEA CLIFF (DSV-4)" to a 20,000-foot capability. Upon completion of this conversion TRIESTE II (DSV1) was to be taken out of active service.

Although in a reduced operating status, in May 1982, TRIESTE II (DSV1) conducted a series of five dives from a barge anchored in Wilson Cove, San Clemente Island, California. This was a first for TRIESTE II (DSV1), not only in the number of dives completed in one waterborne period but also in the concept of barge support. TRIESTE II (DSV-1) was towed to and from the dive site by an LCM-8 and, with the exception of messing and berthing, TRIESTE II (DSV-1) was totally independent.

This dive series proved to be a remarkable success and was repeated in September of 1983, when a search for a malfunctioning San Clemente Island Range hydro phone was conducted. TRIESTE II (DSV-1) was successful in locating and recovering the faulty hydro phone from a depth of 4100 feet.

TRIESTE II (DSV-1) was DEACTIVATED in 1984 and is now on display at the Naval Undersea Museum located at 1 Garnett Way in Keyport, WA 98345


The USS WHITE SANDS (ARD-20) was placed out of service in late 1974 and was sold to Seattle-based Marine Power and Equipment and moved to Lake Union to serve as a dry dock.


The USS APACHE (ATF-67) was decommissioned in 1974 and sold under the Security Assistance Program to the Republic of China on 1 June 1974. Renamed ROCS Ta Wan (ATF-551), she entered service with the Republic of China Navy.


The USS POINT LOMA (AGDS-2) was ultimately placed out of service in 1993 and scrapped by Marine Metal Inc. of Brownsville, Texas in October, 2006.





Trieste II (DSV-1) Characteristics

Design Depth

20,000 feet


78 feet


15 feet

Draft (to landing gear

19 feet


95 Short Tons

Weight (diving trim)

336 Short Tons

Submerged endurance

12 Hours at 2 Knots

Operating Crew


Normal Support Crew Size

3 Officers, 20 Enlisted



If you have any additional or verifiable contradictory information or new facts to add to this account, please contact the WebMaster. The purpose of this account is to recite an accurate and a complete as possible History of the TRIESTE, before all the participants are gone and the history is lost forever. We are especially interested in photographs, correspondence and personal accounts of the events.