Exploring the Ocean With a Bathyscope

Reading Time: 2 minutes
bathyscope
The bathyscope on the deck, ready for action.

When we stayed in Provincetown recently, we spent much of our time at the condo of my wife’s aunt. It’s built right on the bay, giving the kids easy access for exploring the water as the tide came in and out. Making the experience that much cooler, she had brought along her bathyscope.

I hadn’t heard of a bathyscope before. Bathysphere, yes; bathyscope, nope. Sometimes going by the name of aqua scope, it’s a pretty nifty device for kids wanting to watch what’s going on underwater.

bathyscope
Using the bathyscope to get a clear view of what’s beneath the surface.

It was built like a big traffic pylon, with a rubber viewing “mask” on the top, sturdy plastic handles around the circumference, and a big lens (plexiglass, I think) mounted to the bottom. Stick the bathyscope in the water and you can use it to view what’s beneath the surface. The ‘mask’ keeps sun and background out of your eyes and the lens pushes down on the water to give a very clear view with far less distortion than trying to peer down through the surface of the water unaided. It’s not magnified, but the clarity of what you see when looking through the bathyscope makes a huge difference.

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There’s a lot more interesting stuff to look at than a foot, but you get the idea…

Because of the size, we found it works best for either viewing stationary objects, or positioning yourself and patiently waiting for sea creatures to wander into view. Swinging the bathyscope around tends make waves and cast shadows that spook anything that’s mobile enough to dart away.

Apparently there’s a practical use for these in checking out the condition of underwater structures like docks. But for kids, the educational/entertainment value of being able to clearly observe the bay’s denizens is a big win.

I’m not sure which version my wife’s aunt bought—she mentioned bringing it from Europe because they are hard to find in U.S. stores—but Amazon has a similar bathyscope (that can be broken into three pieces for easier transport) for about $46.

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