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James Cameron Donates Submarine On One-Year Anniversary Of Mariana Trench Dive

March 27, 2013
Image Credit: Jaguar PS/Shutterstock

Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

On the one-year anniversary of legendary filmmaker/director James Cameron´s descent to the bottom of the world, the submarine he used to make that solo descent — a nearly 7 mile journey to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean — is being donated to science.

Cameron, famed director of the blockbuster movies “Titanic” and “Avatar,” told BBC News that he would be donating his Deepsea Challenger to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).

While Cameron is perhaps best known for his history-making movies, his dive to Challenger Deep on March 25, 2012 made history as the deepest solo dive in a submarine. WHOI plans to use the technological advances of the submarine to build new and better deep-sea research vehicles, but it also wants the system to make another dive to the bottom of sea sometime in the future.

Cameron said that he would like to be the one to make that leap again if given the chance.

“There are a number of really, really interesting science targets out there. I would love to see the Deepsea Challenger dive in the Tonga Trench, the Kermadec Trench and the Sirena Deep,” he said, adding that funding cuts are jeopardizing research of a vastly unexplored frontier.

Cameron´s record-breaking descent came nearly 52 years after US Navy Lt Don Walsh and Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard descended to Challenger Deep in a bathyscaphe in 1960. Together, they are the only three people to ever explore the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

During Cameron´s journey, his bright green submarine dropped like a torpedo, taking just two hours to make the nearly 7 mile descent to the bottom of the ocean. Squeezed into the tiny chamber, he was safe from the extreme pressures of the deep. At the bottom, he spent several hours exploring the seafloor, capturing 3D images for a National Geographic film due for release later this year.

He told the BBC’s Rebecca Morelle that by donating the submarine to WHOI, he was giving the vessel a new life. Because funding is so scarce, he said plans to take another journey had not been possible.

“I’d love to keep the Deepsea Challenger continuously operational. But I think that what I’m going for right now is what I call ‘potentially operational’. The way to do that is to preserve the hardware 100 percent, which we’ll do, but more importantly to preserve the culture of the engineering,” he said.

“My hope is with the sub’s home now at Woods Hole, there will be a residential team in place – and they will have the knowledge of how to bring that sub back online,” he added.

WHOI, a prominent leader in ocean science research, already has a number of submersibles it operates, including the famous Alvin vehicle. While it could see Deepsea Challenger making another dive in the future, it maintained that some of the vessel´s components will supplement its own vehicles.

WHOI members plan to use the lights and cameras from Cameron´s sub and put them into use on the Nereus, an unmanned underwater vehicle that has also explored the Mariana Trench.

Dr. Dave Gallo, director of special projects at WHOI, said the next step would be to determine what other technology might be of use, and whether or not the submersible itself can be used again. “It is for one person, so you would have to have someone trained to do it – and we are looking very closely at every option.”

Cameron´s dive was more than just historic. The filmmaker´s preliminary findings, which were released at the American Geophysical Union´s Fall Meeting in San Francisco, showed evidence of many species new to science.

That finding should be reason alone to provide funding for future deep ocean research, explained Cameron, adding that it was essential to explore the biology and chemistry of the deep sea.

“As an absolute minimum, (there were ) over 68 new species – most are bacteria, some are amphipods, and there is possibly a new sea cucumber… and that number may go way up,” Cameron said to the BBC. “There were also some quite interesting new species of giant amphipods that were 7-8in long when amphipods are normally 0.5-1in in size.”

Susan Avery, president and director of WHOI, said: “Jim’s record-breaking dive was inspirational and helped shine a spotlight on the importance of the deep ocean“¦ We face many challenges in our relationship with the ocean, so there is heightened urgency to implement innovative approaches. Partnerships such as this one represent a new paradigm and will accelerate the progress of ocean science and technology development.”

Cameron´s decision to journey to the Mariana Trench came from his intense drive to explore the world´s oceans. That same drive is what led him to produce “Titanic” and “The Abyss.”

Cameron, 58, has long been interested in the world´s oceans. He has made more than 75 submersible dives in his lifetime, including 33 to the wreckage of the Titanic. He first descended upon the watery grave of the infamous ocean liner for his 1997 film of the same name.

Continuing his passion for ocean exploration, Cameron also directed a number of documentaries about lost ships including the German battleship Bismarck.

And just a few weeks ahead of his Mariana Trench descent, he squeezed into his submarine and made a five-mile test dive to the bottom of the New Britain Trench off Papua New Guinea.

Cameron will now serve as an advisor on a board created by the WHOI for its new Center for Marine Robotics to advance exploration of the oceans. He landed the role in an agreement made during the sign-off of the Deepsea Challenger. The submarine is scheduled to be delivered to the Cape Cod, Massachusetts-based Institute by early summer.


Source: Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online