In addition to the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER itself, Cameron is kicking in nearly $1 million to help WHOI scientists and engineers make the sub’s technology more widely available for deep-sea exploration.
Before setting his sights once again on the far-off moon Pandora for the next Avatar adventure, filmmaker and aquanaut James Cameron has bequeathed arguably his greatest technological accomplishment to science. Cameron’s DEEPSEA CHALLENGER submarine, which he drove to the deepest part of this planet last March, will in June arrive at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts, ultimately helping researchers there better understand life in Earth’s last unexplored frontier.
“Most of what’s known about the bottom of the ocean has come from images shot miles up in the water column, and it’s a relatively coarse data set,” Cameron said recently at roundtable discussion in New York City with WHOI scientists who design, build and operate manned and robotic deep-sea exploration vehicles. “So you’ve got to get down there and look around and ground-truth it,” he added. “Very little of that looking around has been done.”
Cameron and his team of engineers outfitted the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER with cutting-edge flotation mechanisms and energy storage systems, along with cameras, lighting and other features specifically tailored for gathering data, samples and images during the first manned mission to the deepest recess of the Mariana Trench. He touched down about 11 kilometers below the Pacific Ocean surface at the Challenger Deep site, a spot previously visited by only a handful of robotic subs. During the seven-hour round-trip, Cameron spent about three hours at Challenger Deep collecting samples for marine biology, microbiology, astrobiology, marine geology and geophysics research.
In addition to the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER itself, Cameron is kicking in nearly $1 million to help WHOI scientists and engineers make the sub’s technology more widely available for deep-sea exploration. “We’ve been be sure to fund this enough that there are enough people and resources available to write this up, publish it and therefore have it available,” he said. “To me, that’s an infinitely better outcome than [the sub] sitting dormant until I’m done with my next two movies, and maybe it comes to the tech community five or six years down the line when it’s already obsolete.”
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