The following is a guest post by Laura McKeever.
If you have ever wondered what it would be like to reach the darkest depths of the ocean, today you will find out. Thanks to an expedition conducted by James Cameron, the director of Titanic and Avatar, we have an insight into what life seven miles below sea level is like. The famous director has boldly gone where only two men have been before, but unlike them he was able to see the area in the Mariana Trench, an area that is larger than the Grand Canyon.
To many people, life that far beneath the ocean surface conjures up images of alien-like creatures and foot long anthropoids. The mystique of the sea has always been associated with monsters that us mere mortals have not yet seen, but Cameron’s trip has proved our imaginations wrong. Disappointingly, he reported after surfacing that the only living things he saw in the Marina Trench were inch long prawn-like specimens. Despite returning without any captivating stories about monsters from the deep, Cameron feels as though his journey was largely a success. The three hours that he spent cramped into a tiny capsule were just a fragment of the intended six hour journey, but at the same time he felt as though he had “ventured between two planets.”
Although Mr. Cameron’s lack of discoveries are a little dull, there is plenty to be excited about when it comes to the machine he went down in. The lime-green craft, known as the Deepsea Challenger, is a tremendous feat of engineering. It has been designed to withstand the incredible pressures that are often exerted on mechanical objects in the deep sea, which can reach eight tonnes per every square inch of material.
The design of the Deepsea Challenger also means that it is able to withstand high variations in pressure. Imagine rocketing between ranges of 100 degrees Fahrenheit to well below freezing within a matter of minutes, as that is what Cameron’s sub has been designed to do. As the vessel descends, the electrical circuits heat up while trying to meet the continuously strenuous demands exerted on it. This is eventually reversed as the ocean floor grows nearer, as the deepsea water temperatures maintain a constant below freezing level due to receiving no sunlight.
Unfortunately, Cameron’s trip has not even been able to provide us with any geological discoveries. The hydraulics on the vessel stopped working as he reached the ocean floor, which meant he was unable to retrieve any samples that could give us an insight into life seven miles below the surface of the ocean. Despite this, it is pretty clear that Cameron’s dedication to learning more about what goes on down there won’t stop him from making some truly astonishing discoveries. The dedicated director was faced with the decision of either missing the premier of Titanic 3D, or going ahead with his mission. As he chose to head for the depths of the ocean rather than the big screen, his dedication shows that the Deepsea Challenger may be dusted off in the future to bring avid biology and geology lovers news of what happens under the sea.
Laura McKeever is a Medical Sciences student from the UK and freelance writer. In addition to having an avid interest in medicine, she is also fascinated by other areas of science, including geology.