Pure awesomeness: James Cameron and the Mariana Trench

I’m a movie fan and I certainly have enjoyed the work of James Cameron, but I’ve never thought of him as awesome. Of course Titanic was great. And, despite the storyline not being anything new, Avatar was visually spectacular (especially since I saw it in an IMAX). And I guess he’s done other stuff? I don’t know, but that’s what IMDB claims. Anyway, as far as I know, he’s a pretty good director. For that, I view him favorably. But for what he’s about to do I’ve already decided I view him as just fantastic:

In the coming weeks, the director of “Titanic” and “Avatar” will climb inside the Deepsea Challenger, a single-pilot submersible vehicle he helped design, and dive to the Challenger Deep, the lowest point in the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean 200 miles southwest of Guam. Once he’s there he plans to spend six hours on the ocean floor collecting scientific samples and filming for a 3-D theatrical feature documentary that will also be broadcast on the National Geographic Channel.

This will be just the fourth time any man-made craft has gone that deep and just the second time any person will find themselves submerged so far. The first time people sunk to the bottom of the Mariana Trench was in 1960 when U.S. Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard took on the challenge. Once they hit the bottom, they found they had disturbed some bottom-dwelling fish. This was incredible. Just a handful of decades earlier it was still thought that no life could exist below about 2,000 feet. The thinking was that no light could ever penetrate that deeply, so there would be no viable ecosystem that far down. The first trans-Atlantic communications cables to be pulled up for repairs, however, were found to be encrusted with barnacles. They had been laying about 2 miles beneath the surface.

Fast forward the better part of a century and we’ve discovered, with the movement of that bottom-dwelling fish and a few shrimp, that life can exist anywhere underwater. Just anywhere. But here’s the crazy thing: We have been able to send people to the bottom of the ocean for longer than we’ve been able to send them to the moon, yet we’ve visited the latter far more times than we’ve even seen the former, much less visited it. And isn’t that bizarre? Imagine we knew nothing of the flora and fauna of a place like California and in order to learn about it all we send a couple of non-scientists to take a quick glance at the first few forms of life they see. That’s a fair approximation of how much we know about the Mariana Trench. Don’t we want to know more about all the life that exists in this amazingly exotic locale?

I’m glad that not only is a human going to once again visit such an incredible place, but that this human happens to be a big-name celebrity. Who knows what this will do for deep-sea exploration, but at the very least it will get the attention of people who normally would never know anything about any of this. Education is fun. I can’t wait to read about the experience and see the video.

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