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Bascom (Willard) Papers
SMC 0062  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Biography
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • OFF-SITE STORAGE
  • Publication Rights
  • Restrictions
  • Digital Content

  • Descriptive Summary

    Languages: English
    Contributing Institution: Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego
    9500 Gilman Drive
    La Jolla 92093-0175
    Title: Willard Bascom Papers
    Creator: Bascom, Willard
    Identifier/Call Number: SMC 0062
    Physical Description: 13 Linear feet (13 records center cartons, 1 map case folder, 11 films, and digital files)
    Physical Description: 23.6 Gigabytes
    Date (inclusive): 1938-2000
    Abstract: Papers of engineer and oceanographer Willard Bascom, including his correspondence, research files, writings, photographs and films, along with materials from his company, Ocean Science and Engineering, Inc.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    Papers of engineer and oceanographer Willard Bascom, including his correspondence, research files, writings, photographs and a small selection of films, along with materials from his company, Ocean Science and Engineering, Inc. Subjects of note include Project Mohole, marine salvage and mineral prospecting, underwater archaeology, coastal engineering and marine water pollution. The collection also includes Bascom's original 1953 memoir entitled "My Bubbles Rise in Steps: Free-Diving Adventures in the Tropical Pacific," which details his experiences on the Capricorn Expedition.
    Arranged in ten series: 1) BIOGRAPHICAL FILES, 2) CORRESPONDENCE, 3) SUBJECT FILES, 4) GROUPS AND ORGANIZATIONS, 5) OCEAN SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING, INC. (OSE), 6) PROJECTS AND EXPEDITIONS, 7) CONFERENCES AND EVENTS, 8) WRITINGS, 9) PHOTOGRAPHS AND SLIDES and 10) AUDIOVISUAL MATERIAL.

    Biography

    Willard Bascom was a research engineer and oceanographer who pioneered a number of deep sea drilling and salvage projects. Bascom attended the Colorado School of Mines where he studied engineering and geology and worked as a mining engineer from 1941-1945. He then served as Research Engineer for the UC Berkeley WAVES Project, where he directed a field party studying waves and shorelines between 1945 and 1951. He joined the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 1951 as a Research Engineer studying weapons effects at nuclear test sites in the Pacific Proving Grounds. While at SIO he worked as adjunct professor and accompanied the 1953 Capricorn Expedition as Senior Scientist in charge of pressure measurements throughout the cruise. In 1954 he joined the staff at the National Science Foundation, where he spearheaded the preliminary phases of Project Mohole, the first proposed attempt to drill through the earth's crust. As Director of Project Mohole between 1959 and 1962 Bascom helped develop dynamic positioning techniques for holding ships in place during drilling processes. In 1961, test drilling took place at a groundbreaking depth of 11,700 feet, however the project lost congressional support and was ultimately abandoned.
    In 1962 Bascom founded Ocean Science and Engineering, Inc. (OSE), an undersea mineral resources excavation company which procured approximately 20 million carats of diamonds for the De Beers diamond company in South Africa. In addition to his coastal engineering and mineral prospecting work, Bascom was also greatly interested in underwater archaeology and the salvage of submerged vessels and ancient shipwrecks. In the early 1960s, OSE developed a mechanical arm attached to the R/V ALCOA Seaprobe for the purpose of retrieving sunken vessels at great depths, up to 1000 feet. His other company, Seafinders Inc., discovered the wreck of the Nuestra Senora de la Maravillas Spanish treasure galleon in the Bahamas in 1972. Between 1973 and 1984 Bascom served as Director of the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP), an environmental research laboratory concerned with waste disposal in the ocean. After leaving SCCWRP, Bascom continued his underwater archaeology endeavors in the Mediterranean Sea. In the early 1990s, Bascom found a wreck near Artemision in northern Euboea, Greece from which he recovered three bronze statues for the Greek National Museum. In 1996 Bascom was party to the crew who recovered a treasure hoard of 1860s gold coins from the Brother Jonathan paddle steamer which sunk off the coast of Crescent City, California in 1865.
    Bascom was a keen videographer and writer, and he documented many of his activities through both film and narrative. He authored and edited several books, including A Hole in the Bottom of the Sea: The Story of the Mohole Project (1961), Great Sea Poetry (1969), Deep Water, Ancient Ships: The Treasure Vault of the Mediterranean (1976), Waves and Beaches: The Dynamics of the Ocean Surface (1979), and The Crest of the Wave: Adventures in Oceanography (1990).
    Bascom received the Explorer's Club Medal for his contributions to deep water archaeology and geophysics in 1980. He died in San Diego in 2000.

    Preferred Citation

    Willard Bascom Papers. SMC 62. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired 1989-2008.

    OFF-SITE STORAGE

    COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE. ALLOW ONE WEEK FOR RETRIEVAL OF MATERIALS.

    Publication Rights

    Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.

    Restrictions

    Original media formats in SERIES 10) AUDIOVISUAL MATERIAL are restricted.

    Digital Content

    Many of the moving image recordings have been digitized. Two films exist only in digital format.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Ocean engineering
    Underwater archaeology
    Bascom, Willard -- Archives
    Project Mohole -- Archives
    Ocean Science and Engineering, Inc. -- Archives
    Capricorn Expedition (1952-1953)