Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Deep Sea Diving History Made by James Cameron
The Mariana Trench: Earth’s Final Frontier
Last year renowned filmmaker and National Geographic explorer James Cameron took deep sea diving to a whole new level. Cameron, famous for films such as Titanic and Avatar, successfully completed the deepest solo submarine dive in history. According to a National Geographic article Cameron was the “first human to reach the 6.8-mile-deep (11-kilometer-deep) undersea valley solo…Cameron arrived at the bottom with the tech to collect scientific data, specimens, and visions unthinkable in 1960, when the only other manned Challenger Deep dive took place”. However, Cameron’s record-breaking dive posed dangers to both the people and multi-million dollar equipment involved in the project leaving some to wonder why he took the financial risk. Image courtesy of National Geographic
The Importance of the Dive
The Mariana trench remains one of the most unexplored regions on the planet with only three people in history having ever reached the bottom. Before Cameron’s dive the most recent expedition took place in 1960 and since then there have been substantial improvements to audio, video, and scientific equipment. For Cameron, the dive’s true purpose was not publicity but rather to uncover the hidden secrets of the trench using new technological advancements. The article explains how during Cameron’s dive “3-D video cameras kept whirring…there is scientific value in getting stereo images because … you can determine the scale and distance of objects from stereo pairs that you can’t from 2-D images”. Image courtesy of the Huffington Post
Man vs. Machine
So why not just send a robotic vehicle? Manned subs can contribute more in the way of research benefits than ROVs. For one, humans are still more advanced than machines when it comes to quickly drawing conclusions about what we see around us. We are also better able to feel out a situation. For instance we are better at knowing when to turn lights on or off so as not to scare deep sea creatures or how to take samples without disrupting the environment.
Perhaps the most important reason to send a human instead of an ROV is because of the press associated with a manned dive. According to biologist Lisa Levin, “at a time of fast-shrinking funds for undersea research, ‘what scientists need is the public support to be able to continue exploration and research of the deep ocean’”. National Geographic hopes this dive will ignite a “Renaissance in deep sea exploration”.
Image courtesy of the Huffington Post
Though the samples and footage from Cameron’s dive are still being analyzed, the dive is already beginning to shed light on the mysteries of the trench. Many never-before-seen animal species and microorganisms have already been identified and even more discoveries are expected to take place. Nevertheless, Cameron does not consider his work complete and he’s planning more dives in the near future.
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