The acclaimed Avatar director James Cameron is set to release a documentary about a distant world much closer to home. James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge 3D, which documents his 2012 deep-sea expedition to the Mariana’s Trench aboard the custom-made submersible Deepsea Challenger, will hit theaters on August 8th, 2014. The documentary is being made in association with the National Geographic Society. The distribution company, DisruptiveLA, just released the latest trailer via iTunes.
On March 26th, 2012, James Cameron made a descent of 35,787 feet, nearly seven miles, into the Challenger Deep, the deepest part of the Mariana’s Trench near Guam. It was the fourth ever dive to reach the deepest place on Earth and only the second manned dive. Cameron’s Deepsea Challenger submersible fell just 10 feet short of the 1960 dive by the Bathyscape Trieste, but shattered the world record for the deepest solo dive.
The Deepsea Challenger submersible is an engineering wonder unto itself. Unlike typical submersibles which are aligned horizontally, the Deepsea Challenger is a vertical craft, able to dive through deep water at a faster pace. Unlike the Trieste which used gasoline for buoyancy, the Deepsea Challenger employed a syntactic foam which took up 70 percent of the submersible’s volume. The foam, called ISOFLOAT, was custom engineered to withstand the crushing pressures of the deep ocean and retain buoyancy. It consisted of millions of hollow glass mini-spheres that were suspended in an epoxy resin.
With the new buoyancy material and vertical alignment, the Deepsea Challenger was able to set a new standard for dive speed to the bottom of the Challenger Deep. While the horizontally aligned and gasoline buoyed Trieste took 287 minutes to descend to the bottom, the Deepsea Challenger took only 157 minutes, almost twice as fast. The dive speed record to the bottom is expected to be challenged by Graham Hawkes’ DeepFlight Challenger (140 minutes), the Triton 36000/3 (120 minutes), and DOER Marine’s Deepsearch (90 minutes), but no dives to the bottom are scheduled in the near future.
One of the principle goals of James Cameron’s expedition was to create a submersible that could stay for an extended period at the bottom of the Mariana’s Trench, conduct experiments and film using a 3D camera. The Trieste crew was only able to remain for 20 minutes at the bottom and no experiments were made. The Deepsea Challenger remained at the bottom of the trench for three hours. The up-close look at the deep intersection of two tectonic plates gave scientists an unprecedented opportunity to view deep geological activity that will help them understand the creation of tsunamis. Biologists at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography at the University of San Diego are studying the film to identify new species and microbiologists are examining samples to understand how life can survive in the dark, highly pressurized recesses of the deep ocean.
The deep-sea dive was a life-long dream for Cameron who spent years with engineers and scientists creating the submersible and planning the expedition. The film chronicles Cameron’s passion, the unexpected challenges, and the life-threatening danger that comes with exploring one of the most inaccessible and hostile environments on Earth. Even the trailer captures the tension and the unexpected wonder and excitement of exploration. When James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge 3D hits theaters on August 8th, movie-goers will be able to ride along with him, and taste the excitement of exploration.
By Steve Killings