Explorer James Cameron gives DEEPSEA CHALLENGER sub to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

March 26th, 2013
Explorer and filmmaker James Cameron and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) have formed a partnership to stimulate advances in ocean science and technology and build on the historic breakthroughs of the 2012 Cameron-led DEEPSEA CHALLENGE expedition exploring deep-ocean trenches. The announcement comes on the one-year anniversary of Cameron's unprecedented solo dive to 35,787 feet, almost 11,000 meters, to the deepest place on Earth—the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench—in the vertically-deployed vehicle he and his team engineered, the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER submersible system and science platform.

Cameron will transfer the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER to Woods Hole, where WHOI scientists and engineers will work with Cameron and his team to incorporate the sub's numerous engineering advancements into future research platforms and deep-sea expeditions. This partnership harnesses the power of public and private investment in supporting deep-ocean science.

"The seven years we spent designing and building the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER were dedicated to expanding the options available to deep-ocean researchers. Our sub is a scientific proof-of-concept, and our partnership with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a way to provide the technology we developed to the oceanographic community," says Cameron. "WHOI is a world leader in deep submergence, both manned and unmanned. I've been informally associated with WHOI for more than 20 years, and I welcome this opportunity to formalize the relationship with the transfer of the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER submersible system and science platform. WHOI is a place where the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER system will be a living, breathing and dynamic program going forward."

"Jim's record-breaking dive was inspirational and helped shine a spotlight on the importance of the deep ocean," says Susan Avery, president and director of WHOI. "We face many challenges in our relationship with the ocean, so there is heightened urgency to implement innovative approaches. Partnerships such as this one represent a new paradigm and will accelerate the progress of ocean science and technology development."

The DEEPSEA CHALLENGER system demonstrated the effectiveness of a human-piloted vehicle as a science platform for investigating the deepest part of the ocean. Due to the extreme pressures of these deep-sea environments and the technical challenges involved in reaching them, ocean trenches are among the least explored environments on the planet. The DEEPSEA CHALLENGER system incorporated innovative solutions to some of the challenges of accessing the oceans depths. Among several of the significant innovations are approaches to flotation, energy storage, camera and lighting systems that enabled Cameron to gather data, samples, and imagery in order to maximize science value from the expedition.

"Jim and his team saw challenges and overcame them with forward, innovative thinking. The technological solutions they developed for the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER system can be incorporated into other human-occupied and robotic vehicles, especially those used for deep-sea research," says Avery. "We plan to make that happen."

WHOI envisions a range of uses for the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER system that will bring value to research programs in ocean trenches. For example, WHOI scientists plan to use the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER's cameras and lighting systems on the Hybrid Remotely Operated Vehicle Nereus, which dove to the Mariana Trench in 2009 and will return to trenches in the Atlantic and the Pacific during the next two years. These systems enabled Cameron to capture high-resolution 3D images of geological processes and species in the Challenger Deep during 13 piloted dives and 19 lander deployments. The full spectrum of applications for these new technologies has yet to be determined - it will take scientists and engineers some months to fully document the system's component technologies after the sub's scheduled arrival in Woods Hole early this summer.

Recognizing the power of new technologies, like those embodied in the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER system, to explore and understand the ocean, WHOI recently launched the Center for Marine Robotics (CMR), a novel collaborative model that enhances the development of robotic technologies by bringing together partners from academia, the federal government, and the private sector. The CMR's scientists and engineers will revolutionize the way people and machines work together in the marine environment and enable new approaches to complex scientific challenges. Jim Cameron will serve on the Center's Advisory Board.

"We are delighted that Jim has agreed to join the Center's Advisory Board, a group distinguished by its members' deep experience and commitment to ocean science," says Avery. "By virtue of much of his work in the ocean, he is in a perfect position to provide fresh perspectives on the challenges we face. It's just one manifestation of the kind of sustained partnership developing between WHOI and the Cameron team."

Provided by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

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