Director and ocean explorer James Cameron announced today on the one-year anniversary of his solo dive to the the bottom of the Marianas Trench, that he is donating his submersible Deepsea Challenger to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
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The move comes at a time when WHOI is in the process of reassembling their three-person Alvin submersible after a two year overhaul. Cameron's single-person Deepsea Challenger will help the institution continue to make new advances in ocean exploring technology and highlights the value of public and private partnerships in ocean sciences.
"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," said Susan Avery, president and director of WHOI. "We plan to make that happen."
For example, the oceanographers plan to use the cameras and lighting systems from Deepsea Challenger on the Hybrid Remotely Operated Vehicle Nereus, which dove to the Mariana Trench in 2009. Nereus is scheduled to return to trenches in the Atlantic and the Pacific during the next two years.
"The seven years we spent designing and building the Deepsea Challenger were dedicated to expanding the options available to deep-ocean researchers," said Cameron in a joint statement with WHOI. "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.
"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," he continued. "WHOI is a place where the Deepsea Challenger system will be a living, breathing and dynamic program going forward."
Deepsea Challenger, which was built in Sydney, Australia, by Acheron Project Pty., Ltd., is the first single-person sub to allow for human exploration of the full depth of the ocean. Cameron last year was the first person to dive to the bottom of the Marianas Trench solo, reaching 35,787 feet, and the first to return to what is considered the deepest point in the ocean since U.S. Navy submariner Don Walsh, and the late Jacques Piccard, a Swiss engineer, dove the abyss in their bathyscaphe the Trieste in 1960.
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"Jim's record-breaking dive was inspirational and helped shine a spotlight on the importance of the deep ocean," Avery said. "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."
IMAGE: The Deepsea Challenger submersible carrying filmmaker James Cameron is hoisted into the Pacific Ocean on its way to ‘Challenger Deep.' (Mark Thiessen/National Geographic)