Deep sea exploration news  
When it comes to boldly going where no man has gone before, to paraphrase the somewhat sexist statement from television's Star Trek series, one thing is for sure. The deepest points in the ocean of our planet are far more mysterious and impenetrable than some of the locations in outer space. This is a fact – we know more about what the surface of the planet Mars looks like than we do what lies at the foot of the Pacific Ocean.
Uncovering the foreboding undersea world has captivated the imagination of humankind for centuries. The difference is that technology has advanced to a stage that we can now send vessels to depths that were unimaginable until fairly recently. The deepest portion of the ocean is the Challenger Deep, lying at the base of the Mariana Trench. This is a mind-boggling 11 kilometers beneath the surface. In March 2012, the movie director James Cameron (perhaps most widely known for his blockbuster Titanic) entered a self-designed submersible, called the Deepsea Challenger. This was kitted out for exploration and research, allowing Cameron to take samples as well as thoroughly documenting his dive in high-resolution 3D film.
Cameron's CV might well be headed ‘movie director', but he is the veteran of 72 submersible operations to date. 51 of these were accomplished in the Russian craft Mir. The latter vessels were used for dives to 4,900 meters during his research for the Titanic. In his most recent exploration, to the uncharted depths of the Challenger Deep, his craft was a claustrophobic vessel made primarily of specialized glass foam. This material had to be robust enough to withstand the tremendous pressures at that depth. As Cameron slipped through the waters, he sampled material for scientific research, as well as making a feature-length documentary.
This was a particularly tricky assignment because sunlight does not penetrate to these depths, and the pressure exerted by the sheer weight of water is equivalent to a thousand times what is experienced above the surface. Nevertheless, the research vessel filmed previously unseen aquatic life-forms, as well as scooping up samples of rocks, minerals and animals. As well as being of vital importance to natural historians, the rock samples help geologists to understand the forces that cause earthquakes and tsunamis. The dive also provided answers to questions about the very origins of life on earth.
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