In a steampunk world, or historically in general, when could be the earliest technology to dive to the deepest parts of the ocean and what would that technology look like?

To prime the question, some technologies needed:

Buoyancy - provided by lighter than water fluids like gasoline (0.7 specific gravity) or kerosene (0.8) or whale oil (0.9). Possibly by pumice stone? Though would pumice pulverize at depth?

Pressure hull - steel, but specific types of steel needed? Could bronze substitute? If bronze, how much thickness?

Glass - acrylic glass was used, can other glass be used?

Controls - other than a diving bell, if given thrusters/control surfaces, how could these be manipulated from the pressure hull?

I'd say the technology is in the grasp (but a reach) for steampunk/victorian era. But possibly do-able?


1 Answer 1


Alexander the Great's diving bell.

alex dives


That's right. That's Alex in the turban headed down for a look around, Persian style. Alex was popular all over the world. The glass barrel was very strong and very clear so he could see the fish. The (many!) medieval paintings from various countries do not usually show how fresh air was supplied. But the guy who figured out the Gordian knot could figure out that too.

"Wait!", you protest. "If people knew it could be done, and made pictures of it, why didn't they try to do it?" Answer: none of those people were Alexander the Great.

  • $\begingroup$ I don't think that's very accurate, Alexander went down in a diving bell but it was most likely bronze. And it's subject to all the constraints of scuba diving, i.e you can't go much below 100 feet and definitely can't go below 200 feet without mixed gas. $\endgroup$
    – IDNeon
    May 5, 2021 at 20:49
  • $\begingroup$ @IDNeon : I refer you to the poem: en.calameo.com/read/004760449a472c8e61bd5 "The workmen made a superb vessel. All of crystal clear glass; none had seen any more beautiful". $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    May 5, 2021 at 23:23
  • $\begingroup$ Diving bells were used by other divers for marine engineering projects. Salvage. Building the foundations for quays or harbor defenses. $\endgroup$
    – o.m.
    May 6, 2021 at 4:07

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