By Tim Peterson
“Approaching 24,000 feet” is the reply to the controller’s request for an update on the condition of the submersible. As the capsule passes the deepest dive on record in the last fifty years, the solo diver inside exhales an excited and nervous breath that will condense on cold steel inside the compression-proof vessel and become drinking water in the event of an emergency. Every contingency has been considered and every caution has been taken to protect the adventure passenger.
This simulation scenario could be part of the many contingencies considered in the upcoming James Cameron Deepsea Challenge dive to the Challenger Deep some 36,070 feet at the bottom of the Marianas Trench in the North Pacific. The Trench is 250 miles southwest of Guam. The crew will land here prior to the mission.
In 1960, original divers Walsh and Piccard would take the Trieste to the never before reached depth of the Pacific. Now a newcomer and an innovator in his filmmaking career, James Cameron of Titanic and The Abyss fame, will attempt to track the same descent with new and updated scientific twists. Cameron will descend in 90 minutes in a one-man submersible to the lowest place on Earth. The original descent of 4.5 hours and a 20-minute stay on the bottom earned both divers the fame of appearing in National Geographic magazine and on the cover of Life. Cameron plans to spend six hours on the ocean floor.
Enduring the dangers and the discomfort of the small cabin for the duration of the dive, Cameron will be assisted by the latest technology. The effects of the pressure at the bottom of the trench will shrink his sub by inches, illustrating the danger of this 20th century 20,000 leagues under the sea adventure. Says Cameron, “We have to go because we don’t know what’s there.”
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Photos via National Geographic.