A technique for encasing specimens in a thin gas layer during their observation in the Siemens Elmiskop I is described. All gases can be employed at pressures up to one atmosphere. Destruction of specimens can occur in the beam; all organic specimens are particularly liable to decompose. The conditions under which this can be avoided are given. A useful application of the technique allows one to prevent specimens from drying out, as they normally do in vacuum. A further application uses the controlled removal of carbon for thinning organic layers and for selective etching of organic materials.