William Beebe was born in 1877 in Brooklyn and died at the age of 85 in Trinidad and Tobago. He was the first person to go deep into the abyss in research of undersea life.
William Beebe was fascinated by wildlife since his early years. Lucky for him, the same year he was born, The American Museum of Natural History opened its gates, fostering Will’s love for nature and influencing him a lot. Further on, he developed a big interest in collecting all sorts of animals, this after receiving his first gun when he was sixteen. He then trained himself in taxidermy, the art of preparing and stuffing animals, in order to preserve and display them. During his high school years, he wrote his first article and then, after being accepted at the Columbia University, he started to split his time between school and the museum. His first research trip was to Nova Scotia.
His first marine expedition took place in the Galapagos, on a ship called Arcturus. It was a great success for William Beebe and his crew, as they managed to dredge creatures from the sea, and did this off the coasts of Saba and Saint Martin as well. He made the first studies on the phenomenon nowadays known as El Nino during this expedition. He encountered in the Pacific two currents of very different temperatures. Taking a few days to study the currents, he came up with the first theory that the weather in South America was influenced by the two currents.
During his Galapagos expedition, Will dived into the sea wearing a diving helmet, and he managed to document some previously unknown creatures. The next documentation he did was on the marine life in Haiti. He traveled on the a named Lieutenant, and he went through around 300 helmet dives during this expedition. He also managed to take underwater photos by taking a watertight box used to house the camera and a telephone, placed in his helmet, which allowed him to dictate observations to someone who was on the surface.He became the first, along with the engineer Otis Barton, who used a bathysphere to observe the deep sea animals living in their natural environment, in Nonsuch Island in the 1930’s. William Beebe spent his final years in Trinidad and Tobago, at a research site that he bought and named Simla, where he studied birds, plants and also insect behavior.