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12 23Tue09302014

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Back Local News Challenger Deep described as ‘desolate’

Challenger Deep described as ‘desolate’

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MONDAY night at 9 p.m., with the first mission of many scheduled to the bottom of Challenger Deep behind him, James Cameron held a media briefing via conference call while relaxing comfortably aboard Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s yacht “Octopus,” which was steaming to help transport the Academy Award-winning director to the London premier of “Titanic 3D.” Cameron, an avid scuba diver, ocean explorer and filmmaker, started the interview stating, “This is a culmination of a lifelong dream. I grew up with Jacques Cousteau bringing the ocean into my living room, and that got me excited about the idea of diving and ocean exploration. The ocean has been a passion for my whole life. Most people probably know me as a filmmaker, but honestly, the ocean and the idea of exploration has always been the stronger driver in my life.”

View a McClatchy-Tribune graph of how far Cameron traveled into the deep.


In commenting about the sub’s performance, Cameron explained, “I lost my hydraulics (after touching down at the bottom of Challenger Deep) toward the latter part of the dive. I wasn’t able to use the manipulator arm. Even right now, I am not quite sure what went wrong there. This is to be expected. This is a prototype vehicle. It’s going to take us time to iron out the bugs. Obviously we’ve got more work to do. We plan to go back out there and do a number of dives over the next few weeks. We have a big science team with us and they want samples. They want rocks, not just images. So when my manipulator kind of froze up on me when the hydraulics ruptured, I saw a bunch of hydraulic oil go in front of my window and I knew things weren’t going so well.”

In a test dive at the New Britain Trench in Papua New Guinea, performed a few weeks ago, Cameron recalled what he saw and then commented on what he expected to see. “There was a lot of life there (PNG at a depth of 27,000 feet) and I expected the same thing at Challenger Deep. But what I found was that the life was much smaller. I didn’t see the big jelly fish and the big anemones and so on.”

Lunar

Cameron went on to explain that what he saw was what appeared to be “lunar.”

“When I came down and landed it a was very, very soft flat plain, almost featureless, and it just went out of sight as far as I could see and once I got my bearings and started moving around, I drove across it quite a distance. I finally started to come to the slope that went up to the wall, I started to work my way up the wall and I didn’t see anything bigger than about an inch long. I was hoping to get to rock outcroppings where I expected to see filter feeders. Unfortunately I ran out of power before I got that far,” Cameron said.

In describing Challenger Deep’s vastness, Cameron went on to say: “This thing is big. You have to remember that the Challenger Deep, which is only a small part of the Mariana Trench, is something like 50 times the size of the Grand Canyon.”

Cameron described the bottom of the ocean as “a very desolate place, very isolated.”

He added, “I had this idea that life would adapt to the deepest place, but I don’t think we’re seeing that. The only free swimmers I saw were these little amphipods, shrimp-like animals. They were fairly ubiquitous.”

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