James Cameron donates deep-sea submersible to science

Woods Hole will incorporate innovations from the Deepsea Challenger into existing vehicles and future exploration platforms. The main goal "is to get the technology out there."

One year ago, James Cameron made his solo 35,787 feet dive to the deepest place on Earth – the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench. No one has reached the bottom in five decades, and he’s first to do it alone.

Now, the filmmaker is donating his custom-engineered submersible, Deepsea Challenger, to science.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts will incorporate its technology into future research platforms for deep-sea expeditions.

“WHOI is a place where the Deepsea Challenger system will be a living, breathing and dynamic program going forward,” Cameron says in a news release. “Our sub is a scientific proof-of-concept, and our partnership with [WHOI] is a way to provide the technology we developed to the oceanographic community.”

With scientific research hampered by funding shortfalls, the main goal is "to capitalize on the engineering advances to the highest possible degree,” he adds.

Extreme pressures make ocean trenches among the hardest environments to explore. It took seven years to build this human-piloted vehicle. Its vertical design lets it dive rapidly, and it includes innovations in flotation, energy storage, and camera and lighting systems for gathering data, samples, and images. (Expect a 3D movie this fall.)

WHOI plans to use these cameras and lighting systems on its Hybrid Remotely Operated Vehicle Nereus to explore trenches.

The Deepsea Challenger (pictured) will stay in operational readiness – but future dives depend on funding. Cameron tells the BBC that funding was so scarce, a second dive was impossible. Donating the vessel gives it "a second phase" of life.

For decades, NASA and the military financed research resulting in breakthroughs that spin off into the private sector, NYT explains. But today, advances in the private sector often “spin in” to government bodies. (WHOI works closely with federal agencies.)

[Via NYT, Reuters, PopSci]

Image: Mark Thiessen/National Geographic

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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