James Cameron at sea (deepest known point in any of the world’s oceans)

* National Geographic, “James Cameron Completes Record-Breaking Mariana Trench Dive

* National Geographic, “First Look: James Cameron’s Sci-Fi Sub for Deepest Dive

* CBC News, “James Cameron ventures to ocean’s deepest point – Canadian’s footage to be shared in 3D documentary

* CNN, “James Cameron emerges from ‘alien world’ at ocean’s depths

* NYT, “Exploring Our Own Alien World

* NYT, “Filmmaker in Submarine Voyages to Bottom of Sea

““Just arrived at the ocean’s deepest pt,” Mr. Cameron said in a Twitter message earlier on Sunday. “Hitting bottom never felt so good. Can’t wait to share what I’m seeing w/ you.”

Mr. Cameron’s vehicle is unique among submersibles, its vertical axis meant to speed its descent and maximize time on the bottom. His goal is to explore the dark seabed for six hours, taking pictures and extracting samples of the fauna, before returning to sunny realms. Mr. Cameron, 57, practiced yoga to train for what is likely to be about nine hours of keeping his knees bent and body largely immobile.

Five people have died in submersible accidents over the decades, and Mr. Cameron said the risks he faced were acceptable given the testing that his craft’s parts have undergone and its backup gear for such critical systems as electrical power and life support.”

* NYT, “Rocket Plunge to Deep End of the Planet” (emphasis added)

“In a stroke, James Cameron has upended the field — literally and figuratively. A man known for imaginative films (“Titanic,” “Avatar”), he has reinvented the way that people explore the deep ocean.

This month, Mr. Cameron unveiled his unique submersible and announced plans to ride it solo into the planet’s deepest recess, the Challenger Deep in the western Pacific, nearly seven miles down.

He calls it a vertical torpedo. The axis of his 24-foot-long craft is upright rather than horizontal, speeding the plunge. His goal is to fall and rise as quickly as possible so he can maximize his time investigating the dark seabed. He wants to prowl the bottom for six hours.

“It’s very clever,” said Alfred S. McLaren, a retired Navy submariner who helps to run a company that makes submersibles. “Nobody has done this kind of thing before. It’s a great idea, a tremendous idea.”

He likened Mr. Cameron to “an underwater Steve Jobs — difficult to get along with but very creative.”

“He’s driven,” Dr. McLaren went on. “He put together a hell of a technical team.”

Just as bullets are spun to steady their flight, Mr. Cameron’s craft rotates on its vertical axis — another first. In a test dive, he has already broken the modern depth record for piloted vehicles, going down more than five miles.

“He’s done something radical,” said Peter Girguis, a biological oceanographer at Harvard and head of a panel that oversees the nation’s fleet of deep-research vehicles. “He’s set aside the conventional wisdom.”

Mr. Cameron sees his craft — built in secrecy in Australia over eight years — as greatly expanding the power of scientists to explore the abyss. On the Challenger Deep expedition, he is working with the National Geographic Society, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the University of Hawaii and other scientific groups.

“It’s really fun,” he said in an interview during sea trials off Papua New Guinea. “There’s no bigger high in my world.” […]

Early this month, after Mr. Cameron took his submarine on a test plunge to a depth of five miles, he immediately e-mailed Dr. Walsh to describe the experience and his craft’s performance.

“Overall the vehicle performed like a champ,” Mr. Cameron said. “Plenty of power, and even though I lost one thruster, I still had 11 left, so the massive-redundancy approach worked.”

Time will tell how his craft handles the greater stresses of the Challenger Deep, where the waters overhead press down with a pressure of more than eight tons per square inch.”

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