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[<1800s] [1800s] [1900s] [2000s]

  • Red text = Submarines
  • Blue text = Submersibles
  • Green text = Commercial Exploitation
  • Dark blue text = Surface and Subsurface Exploration
  • 1900s

    April 15, 1912
    The HMS Titanic sinks, killing over 1,000 people and spurring the introduction and inforcement of various new maritime laws.

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    July 22, 1913

    Alexander Behm (Nov 11, 1880 - Jan 22, 1952), a German physicist, attempts to develop an iceberg detection system using refected sound waves - in reaction to the Titanic tragedy. On this day, he takes out a patent in Germany for the invention of echo sounding.
    See 1920

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    1920

    Alexander Behm (Nov 11, 1880 - Jan 22, 1952), a German physicist, sails the North Sea and bounces sound waves off the bottom. He has founded the Behm Echo Sounding Company in Kiel in order to commercialize his invention of echo sounding (which he had originally started as a way to detect icebergs.)

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    1925

    Fritz Haber (Dec 9, 1868 - Jan 29, 1934) a German chemist who had received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1918, launches the German Meteor expedition in a bid to extract gold from seawater.

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    1935

    William Beebe (Jul 29, 1877 - Jun 4, 1962), an American naturalist, explorer and author; and Otis Barton (Jun 5, 1899 - Apr 15, 1992) an American inventor, descend in a tethered sphere invented and built by Barton, to a depth of a half mile, where they glimpse a previously unseen world of living lights and bizarre fish.

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    1938

    Fishermen off South Africa pull up an ungainly five-foot fish identified as a coelacanth, a living fossil thought extinct since the day of the dinosaurs.

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    1948

    Auguste Piccard (Jan 28, 1884 - Mar 24, 1962) dives in his bathyscaph, the first untethered craft that carried people into the depth.

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    1950-1952

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

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    1951

    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.

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    1952

    Marie Tharp (Jul 30, 1920 - Aug 23, 2006) a geologist and oceanographic cartographer, while studying echo soundings, discovers tha 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.

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    1953

    Auguste Piccard (Jan 28, 1884 - Mar 24, 1962) and his son Jacques (July 28, 1922 - ) enter the Trieste, an improved bathyscaphe, and dive to a depth of nearly two miles.

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    1958

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

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    May 28, 1958

    The keel of the nuclear attack submarine USS Thresher, (SSN-593) is laid at Portsmouth Navy Yard.

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    1960

    Jacques Piccard (Jan 28, 1884 - Mar 24, 1962) and Don Walsh (1931 - ) dive in Trieste to the bottom of Challenger Deep, seven miles down.

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    July 9, 1960

    The nuclear attack submarine USS Thresher, (SSN-593) is launched, sponsored by Mrs. Frederick Burdett Warder.

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    1961

    An 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.

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    1961

    Robert Dietz (Sep 14, 1914 - May 19, 1995) Professor of Geology at Arizona State University, studying echo soundings, proposes that the seabed's mountainous rifts are 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.

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    August 3, 1961

    The nuclear attack submarine USS Thresher, (SSN-593) is commissioned. Her captain at this time is Commander Dean L. Axene.

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    August 13, 1961

    Construction begins on the Berlin Wall, which will surround West Berlin and prevent East Berliners from leaving. (The Wall will fall on November 9, 1989.)

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    October 18, 1961

    The nuclear attack submarine USS Thresher, (SSN-593) undergoing sea trials, heads south along the East Coast towards Puerto Rico.

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    November 2, 1961

    The nuclear attack submarine USS Thresher, (SSN-593) is in port at San Juan, Puerto Rico, having reactor problems.

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    November 29, 1961

    The nuclear attack submarine USS Thresher, (SSN-593) returns to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (in Kitttery, Maine).

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    April 10, 1963

    The Thresher, America's most advanced submarine, is undergoing deep-divig tests east of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, when she sinks in waters a mile and a half deep with the loss of 129 men.

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    1964

    The American Navy founds the Deep Submergence Systems Project to develop new gear that can better probe the deep sea's darkness.

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    June 5, 1964

    The American Navy commissions the submersible Alvin (DSV-2), the first piloted craft able to roam the deep with relative ease.

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    1965

    The American Navy tests its first underwater robot.

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

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    1966

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

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    1966

    Halibut spies on Soviet warheads abandoned to the deep.

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    March 17, 1966

    The Alvin (DSV-2), is used to locate a submerged hydrogen bomb lost in a United States Air Force refueling accident over Palomares, Spain.

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    1967

    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.

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    January 25, 1968

    An Isreali submarine, the INS Dakar, sinks in the Mediterranean with the loss of 69 crew.

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    January 27, 1968

    A French submarine sinks in the Mediterranean with the loss of 52 men.

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    March 8, 1968

    A Soviet submarine, the K-129, sinks in the deep Pacific, littering the seabed with secret code books and nuclear warheads.

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    April, 1968

    Carl Brashear (Jan 19, 1931 - Jul 25, 2006), the first African American United States Navy diver (to graduate from US Navy Diving & Salvage School), becomes the first amputee certified to make diving missions. His leg had to be amputated in 1966. He was part of the mission to recover the hydrogen bomb lost off Palomares, Spain. During towing operations a line broke loose and a pipe struck Brashear's left leg below the knee.

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    April, 1968

    In stealth, Halibut examines the lost Soviet sub.

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    May 22, 1968

    The American Navy sub Scorpion sinks in the Atlantic, 400 miles southwest of the Azores, killing 99 men. The Scorpion was also armed with two missiles tipped with nuclear warheads.

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    July 4, 1968

    Yachtsman Alec Rose (Jul 13, 1908 - Jan 11, 1991), a nursery owner and fruit merchant with a passion for sailing, receives a hero's welcome as he sails into Portsmouth, England after sailing around the world in 354 days.

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    October 11, 1968

    SPACE EXPLORATION: NASA launches Apollo 7, the first named Apollo mission with Wally Schirra, Donn Eisele and Walter Cunningham aboard.

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    December 24, 1968

    The US Spacecraft Apollo 8 enters orbit around the moon. Astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and William A. Anders beceom ethe first humans to see the far side of the Moon.

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    1969

    The Trieste II, a new US Navy bathyscaphe, searches the Scorpion wreckage which is more than two miles down, and recovers the sextant.

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    1971

    The US Navy launches the first of two piloted craft that hitch rides on the top of submarines and are able to deep dive for rescues, and espionage.

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    1973

    The US Navy begins to design a tetherless robot, which will become known as the Advanced Unmanned Search System, which will be able to conduct searches for gear lost at depths up to four miles.

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    1974

    Disguised as a seabed miner, the American ship Glomar Explorer lowers a giant claw to grab a sunken Soviet submarine. However, the attempt is a failure as half the sub breaks off.

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    1974

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

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    1974

    A French-American team dives to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, and finds the rift valley filled with lava.

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    June 20, 1974

    The American ship Glomar Explorer sets sail on its mission to recover the sunken Russian submarine, the K-129.

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    1977

    An American team dives in Alvin to a volcanic rift in the Pacific and discovers hot springs teeming with with previously unknown species of life, an ecosystem new to science.

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    1979

    An American team exploring the Gulf of California with Alvin finds "black smokers", chimneys of precipitated minerals blowing out clouds of black smoke and water hot enough to melt lead.

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    1980

    Scientists propose that the seabed's hot springs are the birthplace of all life on Earth.

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    1981

    Ronald Reagan (Feb 6, 1911 - Jun 5, 2004)is elected President of the United States. He begins an arms build-up, including new classes of deep craft and new kinds of deep espionage.

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    1982

    Volcanic seamounts in the Pacific are found to be recovered with rare metals, including cobalt.

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    The United Nations Law of the Sea Treaty is completed. It is opened for ratification. One provision is that the minerals located in the deep belong to the people of the world.

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    1983

    President Reagan (Feb 6, 1911 - Jun 5, 2004) proclaims an Exclusive Economic Zone around the United States, effectively doubling the nation's size and fueling a burst of exploration in deep waters.

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    1984

    Robert Ballard (Jun 30, 1942 - ) tows the tethered US Navy craft Argo over the Thresher, scanning the wreckage with an array of video cameras.

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    1984

    American researchers diving off Florida in Alvin discover life swarming in cold springs, another new kind of deep ecosystem.

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    1984

    Mikhail Gorbachev (Mar 2, 1931 - ) becomes the leader of the Soviet Union, and begins a concilatory East-West policy.

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    August 22, 1985

    The Woods Hole ship Knorr, with Robert Ballard (Jun 30, 1942 - ) on board, arrives on site to search for the wreckage of the Titanic (and secretly, the remains of the lost submarine Scorpion.) The Alvin is deployed to sweep back and forth to search for wreckage.

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    September 1, 1985

    After weeks of searching, Robert Ballard (Jun 30, 1942 - ) lowers the US Navy craft Argo in a search for the wreckage of the Titanic, and finds it more than two miles down. It is broken in two and wreckage is scattered everywhere.

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    Graham Hawke's Deep Rover submersible reveals a "riot" of midwater life in the depths of Monterey Canyon, which inspires billionaire David Packard (September 7, 1912 March 26, 1996) to fund deep explorations.

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    July 12, 1986

    The new US Navy robot Jason Junior probes the interior of the Titanic. Also, in secret missions, the robot explores the wreckage of Thresher and Scorpion.

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    1987

    An American firm hires the French Nautile submersible to begin the salvage of the Titanic.

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    The first East-West treaty to reduce nuclear arms is signed.

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    1988

    Treasure hunters searching off the coast of South Carolina more than a mile down, find the remains of the Central America, a wooden ship that sank in 1857, full of gold.

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    Robert Ballard (Jun 30, 1942 - ) uses the US Navy craft Argo through the Mediterranean and discovers a graveyard of ancient ships, including a 4th century Roman craft.

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    1989

    Robert Ballard ( Jun 30, 1942 - ) lowers the Argo nearly three miles down in the Atlantic and find the German battleship Bismarck.

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    1989

    The Jason recovers artifacts from the Mediterranean's lost Roman ships.

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    November 9, 1989

    The Berlin Wall falls.

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    1990

    The US Navy begins giving civilian researchers access to the NR-1, a deep-diving nuclear submarine with lights, windows, and wheels.

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

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    Russians in the Mir submersibles probe Monterey Canyon. This is the first but not the last time that the Russians loan out - for a price - the submersibles to foreign civilians.

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    October 3, 1990

    Germany is formally re-unified.

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    1991

    The American Navy agrees to share with civilian scientists a fleet of deep explorations, including robots and submersibles.

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    1991

    The Mir submersibles dive more than two miles down and film the wreckage of the Titanic wreckage for a Canadian IMAX movie.

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    1991

    The Soviet ship Yuzhmorgeologiya, which was once used to spy on American submarines, is hired by the American government to do studies of deep ecology.

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    1991

    The Soviet Union dissolves.

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    1992

    Scientists, after a large seabed series, conclude that the deep may hold ten million species of life, far more than known on land.

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    1992

    CIA director Robert Gates (Sep 24, 1943 - ) tells Russian Federation President Boris Yeltsin (Feb 1, 1931 - ) that the Glomar Explorer had recovered the remains of six Soviet sailors, who were subsequently buried at sea.

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    1992

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

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    1992

    Businessmen hire an American Navy contractor to dive on the Titanic for commercial salvage.

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    January 1, 1992

    The Soviet Union is officially dissolved.

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    1993

    Two American companies unveil laser cameras, formerly secret Navy tools for seeing long distances in the deep.

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    1993

    Federal scientists listen to deep Navy 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 create life.

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    1993

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

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    1993

    The French submersible Nautile dives on the Titanic and recovers artifacts.

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    1993

    Robert Ballard (Jun 30, 1942 - ) lowers the US Navy robot Jason in the Celtic Sea to probe the deteriorating remains of the Lusitania.

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    1994

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

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    1994

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

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    1994

    The Shinkai 6500 sets an Atlantic depth record for a piloted vehicle, studying deep geology.

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    1994

    Russians in the Mir submersibles carry British scientists down to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge to study a huge volcanic mound laced with gold.

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    1994

    The Nautile dives on the Titanic to recover artifacts.

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    1994

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

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    1995

    The Kaiko dives to the bottom of Challenger Deep, finding life.

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    1995

    Paul Tidwell arms himself with naval spinoffs and finds the wreckage of the Japanese submarine I-52, which sank three miles down in the Atlantic Ocean in 1944 with a cargo of gold.

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    1995

    Robert Ballard dives in the US Navy's NR-1 to map a field of deep Mediterranean wrecks, some more than two thousand years old.

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    1995

    The Mir submersibles film the Titanic, the footage to be used in the Hollywood movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

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    1995

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

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    1995

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

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    1996

    Federal scientists listeni ng to Navy microphomes hear sounds of volcanism from the Pacific's Gorda Ridge, prompting new studies of seabed volcanism.

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    The robot Jason makes its first dive for a Federal scientific group. It's first dive is to probe the hot vents on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

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    1996

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

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    1996

    The advanced robot Tiburon is unveiled at Packard's institute. It can explore over two-and-a-half miles down.

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    1996

    The Nautile dives on the Titanic. There is filming and a recovery of artifacts, including a large section of the hull.

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    1996

    Deep Flight makes its debut, taking Hawkes one step closer to diving into the Challenger Deep.

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    1997

    American scientists use the robot Odyssey to search the waters off New Zealandfor the giant squid.

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    [<1800s] [1800s] [1900s] [2000s]

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