James Cameron, the director famous for special-effects epics such as “Avatar” and “Titanic,” is preparing to plunge seven miles down to the deepest part of the ocean’s floor in a 24-foot “vertical torpedo.”The stunt, eight years in the making, mirrors his 1989 movie The Abyss, which also takes place on the bottom of the sea.
The craft was built in secrecy in Australia over an eight-year period. Cameron hopes it will expand the ability of scientists to explore the sea floor.
According to The New York Times, Cameron will plummet nearly seven miles to the Challenger Deep, the planet’s deepest recess in the western Pacific:
“The axis of his 24-foot-long craft is upright rather than horizontal, speeding the plunge. His goal is to fall and rise as quickly as possible so he can maximise his time investigating the dark seabed. He wants to prowl the bottom for six hours.”
Click here for photos of Cameron’s “vertical torpedo.”
The descent has only been attempted once before, in 1960, when two men from the U.S. Navy stayed down for 20 minutes.
According to the Times, “Cameron will fit his 6-foot-2 frame into into a personnel sphere just 43 inches wide, forcing him to keep his knees bent and his body largely immobile. The dive plan calls for him to remain in that position for up to nine hours.”
Alfred S. McLaren, a retired Navy submariner who helps to run a company that makes submersibles, says of Cameron’s new concept, “Nobody has done this kind of thing before. It’s a great idea, a tremendous idea.”
McLaren also likened Cameron to “an underwater Steve Jobs—difficult to get along with but very creative.”
It’s not the first time Cameron has developed a new technology from scratch to fulfil his ambitions. For 2009’s “Avatar,” Cameron took 20 years to conceive the utopian planet Pandora and create the 3D “swing camera” first used in the film (“Avatar” went on to win three Oscars and gross $2.7 billion worldwide).
In 2010, Popular Mechanics recalled the “Avatar” creator’s innovations began decades ago:
In 1997, the film Titanic taught Hollywood a powerful lesson in Cameronomics: The director’s unquenchable thirst for authenticity and technological perfection required deep-sea exploratory filming, expensive scale models and pioneering computer graphics that ballooned the film’s budget to $200 million. This upped the ante for everyone involved and frightened the heck out of the studio bean counters, but the bet paid off—Titanic went on to make $1.8 billion and win 11 Academy Awards.
Cameron’s latest underwater venture is sponsored in part by National Geographic and can be tracked online at deepseachallenge.com. The director has yet to announce a plan to use his vertical torpedo for a feature film.
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