March 9, 2012
James Cameron Going Deep
Peter Suciu for Redorbit.com
Director James Cameron certainly knows a thing or two about working underwater. For his 1997 film Titanic, which won an Academy Award for best picture, he actually headed to the watery grave of the infamous ocean liner. The ship, which sank nearly 100 years ago on its maiden voyage, has become a thing of legend, and now Cameron looks to go even deeper and explore the Mariana Trench´s Challenger Deep.
This past Wednesday the self-proclaimed “King of the World” — who stands six feet two inches tall — squeezed into a 43-inch-wide single man craft and took it down five miles in the New Britain Trench off Papua New Guinea. This was just a test dive for his 24-foot-long craft dubbed the Deepsea Challenger. And while Cameron can now boast being the “King of the Deep,” as he broke a record held by a Japanese submersible by more than a mile, he´s looking to go even further
As a film director, Cameron has long shown an interest in the deep sea, beginning with his 1989 film The Abyss. In addition to the film Titanic, he has also directed a number of documentaries about lost ships including the German battleship Bismarck and even a 3D tour of the Titanic. In total Cameron has made 76 submersible dives, which include 33 to the doomed luxury liner.
Cameron is preparing next to take the Deepsea Challenger to the Mariana Trench, where he plans to spend six hours exploring the seafloor, collecting samples and filming the event with multiple 3D, high-definition cameras.
Only once before has anyone made it to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, and that was back in 1960, when the two-person crew of the U.S. Navy submersible Trieste spent just 20 minutes at the bottom. Silt stirred up by the landing marred their view. For this reason Cameron is thinking ahead.
National Geographic reports that the Deepsea Challenger, which has been eight years in the making, is “designed to sink strangely — and efficiently — upright.”
To New Depths
While there is the saying that people climb a mountain because it is there, Cameron is looking to make this historic trip to answer questions about ocean trenches, notably determining whether ocean fish can even live in the sea´s deepest reaches.
“The deep trenches are the last unexplored frontier on our planet, with scientific riches enough to fill a hundred years of exploration,” Cameron said in a statement.
There is also the ability to now go somewhere so out of reach. And while people may indeed climb a mountain because it is there, going and returning the Mariana Trench could be more challenging. In fact, if Mount Everest were actually dropped in the Mariana Trench it would still be more than a mile underwater.
Whether Cameron feels pressure in his preparation for this trip, his craft will certainly experience it — as it will be subjected to water pressures approaching 16,000 pounds per square inch. Compared to the Trieste, which looks antiquated today, the Deepsea Challenger features a spherical steel cockpit and is made of specially designed foam — making it about 12 times lighter than the massive metal cylinder-shaped Trieste.
Race to the Bottom
Cameron´s vessel may only be large enough for a single operator but the director isn´t alone in his quest to explore under the sea.
British tycoon Richard Branson has his own Virgin Oceanic, with the mission to take the next step in human exploration to the last frontiers of our planet. Branson has so far build a two-seat sub that some have compared to “a stubby-winged airplane,” and which the billionaire also believes could survive a Challenger Deep descent.
The Triton submersible company also unveiled its own three-person undersea vehicle, called the Triton 36000/3 F.O.D. (Full Ocean Depth), which reportedly is designed to make the journey as well. According to the company, “The Triton is designed for both scientific and commercial work, and requires a minimum of support equipment and personnel.”
While those regular trips to the moon haven´t happened yet, it seems in the future it might be possible for more people to go experience life under the sea.
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