Marianas Variety Guam Edition – The Local and Regional Newspaper

12 23Sun03292015

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Back Opinion Probing the Trench

Probing the Trench

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JUST one week ago, Guam and the Mariana Islands were enjoying a bit of national attention, as Republicans caucused to give their support and convention delegate votes to one of the candidates for president. Mitt Romney got those votes, and the national interest quickly faded.

This coming week a completely different story will bring international attention to our islands. Movie mogul and National Geographic explorer James Cameron will become only the third person in the last 52 years to descend to the deepest point in the Pacific Ocean, the bottom of the Marianas Trench.

Jacques Picard and Don Walsh took that ride in 1960 on the Navy Bathyscaph Trieste, and nobody has done it since. Ironically, Walsh is back on Guam this week to assist and support his friend, Cameron, in this incredible adventure.

The deepest place on Earth, the Marianas Trench’s Challenger Deep is approximately 10,994 meters (about 7 miles) under the surface. Sonar measurements aren’t precisely accurate – plus or minus 40 meters or about 131 feet – so Cameron’s descent will provide an opportunity to more closely measure the depth.

Nobody is sure exactly when the probe to the bottom of the Trench will take place, but Cameron’s research boat, the Mermaid Sapphire, with his one-man submarine dubbed the Deepsea challenger aboard, is in the harbor ready to go. The Canadian filmmaker is also reportedly on-island, although he isn’t giving any interviews. He may already be on the way to the Deep by the time you read this.

The National Geographic Society, which is partly financing Cameron’s effort, is here too. The other sponsor is Rolex, the Swiss luxury watch company. Other wealthy individuals, like Richard Branson, have also announced trips to the deepest point in the Marianas Trench. But it appears Cameron, who directed two of the biggest hits in the history of "Avatar" and "Titanic," will win the race.

For Guam it is all positive and good. We’re the closest island to the Challenger Deep, about 200 miles southwest of here, so the expeditions will mostly be staged here. The scientists, reporters and cameras will also be here, giving our part of the Pacific substantial publicity. Part science, part swashbuckling adventure, and certainly part incredible danger, the probe to the deepest part of any ocean on Earth will generate moves, documentaries and articles for months afterward.

We congratulate James Cameron and wish him and his crew bon voyage and good luck!

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