The saga of a family of record-breaking explorers who, over three generations, were first to travel to the stratosphere, penetrate the depths of the ocean and circumvent the globe in a nonstop balloon flight.
In the foreword, adventurous director James Cameron pays tribute to Auguste, Jacques and Bertrand Piccard, the latter a personal friend, and he describes the challenges facing modern explorers. They not only pit their bodies against the elements, but must also create manned vehicles capable of supporting life in extreme conditions. Cheshire, the associate editor of the U.K. version of Wired, suggests that there might be an element of genetic heredity involved: the so-called “explorer gene” or D4DR, which was identified in 1996. However, since no member of the Piccard family has been tested for this gene, the author uses the term metaphorically. He integrates the scientific quest of each of the three Piccard family members—beginning with Auguste, who, in 1931, was “the first human to enter the stratosphere, in a balloon he had designed and built himself”—with the close family ties that bound them. Auguste's purpose was to determine the origin of cosmic rays, and he was also the first to see the Earth's curvature from a vantage point miles above the surface. His son, Jacques, worked with Auguste to create the first bathyscaphe and, in 1960, touched the bottom of the Mariana Trench, at a record depth of nearly 36,000 feet. Today, Auguste’s grandson, Bertrand, is a pioneer of solar-powered air flight. Some of the many challenges they faced, writes Cheshire, included finding sponsorship and financing, testing new materials and training on-the-ground teams for the crucial function of mission control.
A page-turning account of a remarkable family and their many groundbreaking ventures.