Who knew James Cameron was obsessed with the darkest depths of the Earth’s oceans? Actually it shouldn’t be all that much of a surprise given the fact that he was behind some of the most well-loved major motion pictures about the bodies of water that make this the blue planet including The Abyss (1989), Titanic (1997), and Sanctum (2011). He’s also produced a number of less well-known documentaries about the oceans such as Expedition: Bismarck (2002), Ghosts of the Abyss (2003), Volcanoes of the Deep Sea (2003), Aliens of the Deep (2005), Last Mysteries of the Titanic (2005), and Titanic Adventure (2005).
In a story that could easily be called The Life Aquatic with James Cameron, the film mogul has teamed up with National Geographic and Rolex to build a submarine that would allow him to explore the deepest place on Earth – Challenger Deep. The submersible (aptly titled Deepsea Challenger) is 24 feet (7.3 m) long, weighs 23,600 pounds, and was designed to withstand over 16,500 psi – a requirement for the nearly seven mile (11 km) deep trench. At those depths the hydrostatic pressure will be exerting nearly 5 million lbs. of force on the sub.
According to the National Geographic site dedicated to the Deepsea Challenger, James Cameron and his team set out to accomplish a number of goals in building the submersible:
- To create and operate a vehicle that can carry a human pilot to the deepest sites in Earth’s oceans and perform work with significant bottom time for research activities;
- To demonstrate the ability to dive repeatedly at any given site to gather data, samples, and imagery to create a comprehensive data set;
- To demonstrate the effectiveness of a human-piloted vehicle as a science platform for investigation in the hadal zone, the deepest part of the ocean;
- To demonstrate the successful interaction of piloted, unpiloted, and remotely piloted platforms to perform a broad range of science tasks in concert;
- Beyond just these demonstrations of capability, to return the maximum actual science value from the first expedition;
- To bring back compelling imagery in 3-D of never before seen geological processes and species. This will inspire public interest in exploration and in scientific study of the deep ocean, especially among young people who must become our future scientists, engineers, and explorers.
This particular trench hasn’t been visited by mankind since 1960 when the two man crew of the Trieste bathyscaphe touched down after a nearly five hour descent. Cameron is set to take the plunge over the next few days and I wish him well.
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- Geek-out Sunday part XXIII: Lake Vostok (marshallstanton.com)