Ocean depths explored in record plunge by Hollywood director
In his latest endeavor, filmmaker James Cameron plunged to the ocean floor of the Mariana Trench’s Challenger Deep, setting a record for the world’s deepest solo voyage at the world’s deepest point. Cameron exuberantly emerged from his vessel, the “Deepsea Challenger”, last Monday after his successful seven-mile journey to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean marked a victory for both man and science in a time when adventure and exploration are more important than ever.
The monumental mission was funded by Cameron, along with the National Geographic Society and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, and illuminated mankind’s efforts to explore the far reaches of planet Earth in an impressive display of technology and human enterprise. The 57-year old Cameron, who is most well-known for directing such films as Titanic and Avatar, is a marine enthusiast at heart and has completed 72 deep-sea dives in his prolific career. Many of those dives were focused in and around the wreckage of the Titanic, where Cameron quickly gained a passion for the mysteries of the ocean depths.
During his submersible voyage, Cameron’s “vertical torpedo” submarine used its eight-foot tower of LEDs to cast an expanse of light onto the ocean floor while 3-D cameras captured beautiful footage of a seemingly alien landscape. The vessel also collected living samples and oceanographic data to be analyzed by the expedition’s science team.
The Mariana Trench, located roughly 200 miles southwest of the island nation of Guam, is about a mile deeper than Mount Everest is tall and nearly 120 times larger than the Grand Canyon. Cameron is not the first to have experienced the wonders of Earth’s deepest point, however; in 1960, Navy Captain Don Walsh and late Swiss engineer Jacques Piccard descended to the bottom of Challenger Deep but were unable to get a proper view because their submarine kicked up too much sediment from the murky ocean floor. 52 years later, Walsh came back to aid Cameron’s mission and witness him “join the club” in this historic dive.
Don’t expect the Deepsea Challenger mission to be a one-time occurrence; Cameron is already planning for many future descents of the Trench. A full length article of Cameron’s expedition will be published in a coming edition of National Geographic magazine, and the team is already working on a feature documentary in efforts to share this amazing achievement with the scientific community and general public alike.
Billionaire tycoon Richard Branson is also in the process of developing his own deep-sea adventure; one that will likely see him at the bottom of the Atlantic’s Puerto Rico Trench in roughly four months’ time. A friendly competition seems to exist between Cameron and Branson, helping to bring much attention to the arena of privatized exploration.
Explorations such as Cameron’s journey to the Marianas depths do more than just advance the reaches of humanity; they effectively inspire and motivate new generations of energetic scientific pioneers and explorers determined to bring Earth’s enduring mysteries to light. At a time when funding for such endeavors is decreasing, privatized, collaborative exploration is more important now than ever. Many areas of the Earth remain unexplored, each presenting its own unique piece to the puzzle of this dynamic blue sphere we call home. My hat goes off to Mr. Cameron and his undying curiosity for the life which lies beneath. If only all famous billionaires used their time and money as wisely.