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Swiss explorer Jacques Piccard dies at 86

Video by Sarah DRURY

Text by AFP

Latest update : 2008-11-02

Swiss sea explorer and inventor Jacques Piccard has died at the age of 86. This true Captain Nemo held the record for travelling to the deepest point underwater, over 11,000 meters below sea level.

Swiss deep sea explorer and inventor Jacques Piccard, who holds the record for travelling to the deepest point underwater, died Saturday at the age of 86, a statement said.

"One of the last great explorers of the 20th century, a true Captain Nemo who went deeper than any other man, Jacques Piccard passed away on Saturday, ... at his home on the edge of his beloved Lake Geneva," it said.

Piccard, who was born in Brussels, together with Don Walsh reached the bottom of the Mariana Trench, 10,916 metres (35,813 feet) below sea level on January 23, 1960 -- the farthest point underwater.

He also witnessed living organisms at a depth of over 11,000 metres below sea level, a discovery that led to a ban in nuclear waste dumping into the ocean.

Piccard had also built four mid-depth submarines, including the first tourist submarine that carried 33,000 passengers deep into Lake Geneva in 1964 and carried on deep sea exploration up to the age of 82.

Piccard's father Auguste Piccard twice beat the record for reaching the highest altitude in a balloon, in 1931-32.

"He passed on to me a sense of curiosity, a desire to mistrust dogmas and common assumptions, a belief in free-will, and confidence in the face of the unknown," Piccard's son Bertrand said in a statement released by Solar Impulse, a solar aeroplane project in which he is involved.

Date created : 2008-11-01