Doc Edgerton’s fascination with underwater acoustical studies first began on a collaborative oceanographic project with Jacques-Yves Cousteau in the summer of 1953. Cousteau had contacted Edgerton because he needed improved lighting methods and cameras for his deep-sea investigations.
On their first expedition together, a recurring concern as they lowered the cameras and strobe lights to photograph the depths, was how to monitor the camera’s position in relation to the sea floor. Edgerton adapted a simple depth-sounder which he attached to the camera, and thereby greatly improved their photographic efforts. The sonar bottom signal would trigger the camera and lights; the echo could be read by the operator who would then know that the device was in the correct range. He called it a ‘pinger’.
Doc Edgerton developed a deep friendship with Commandant Cousteau since their first meeting at MIT in April 1952, and they continued working together into the 1980s on dozens of missions around the world.