Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Real Challenge Was Getting In And Out Of It

The most exciting part of our trip from the Oregon Coast to Cape Cod was at the Woods Hole end, where we were given a private tour of James Cameron's Deepsea Challenger, by WHOI Senior Engineering Assistant Expedition Leader, Tito Collasius, Jr.

This 24-foot long submarine was specially built to explore, to descend seven miles down into the deepest part of the world's oceans, the Mariana Trench.  

James Cameron has had a fascination with deep-ocean exploration since he was a boy, and the Mariana Trench hadn't been explored since 1960.  There was no present-day submersible capable of taking anyone to such depths, so James Cameron co-designed this unit in order to explore this part of the ocean himself.  

I guess when you're worth more than $900 million dollars, dreams easily become reality.

The Sub itself was designed to be manned by one person only.  And James Cameron was going to be that person.  Read some interesting facts about the sub HERE.

The most important component of the sub is the sphere, otherwise known as the pilot's chamber.  The spherical shape was chosen because it's the strongest shape for resisting pressure.  If it were a cylindrical shape, the walls of the chamber would have had to be three times thicker to withstand the crush of the sea.    

Here you can see Ed climbing into the sphere - which he jokingly dubbed "James Cameron's Ball".  

The internal diameter of the pilot sphere is 43 inches.  This is no place for a fat guy.  Good thing Ed dropped those twenty-seven pounds, eh?
Ed's surprisingly flexible, the way he contorted himself to get in this thing.  At 6' tall, I can't imagine it was easy.  He moved like plastic man.  

James Cameron is reportedly 6' 2" tall, but he looks pretty wiry, like those skinny Hollywood types.  He probably went on a juice cleanse the week before he was supposed to get into this thing. 
Marlaina also climbed in, which looked a lot easier.  She's tiny and fit, so getting up in there was a breeze.  She's also brave, since she doesn't like small spaces.  

You couldn't pay me enough to get in there.  Not because I'm claustrophobic or anything, but as a person of size, I don't like to squeeze into anything I might not be able to get out of gracefully.  And I'm sure it was hot in there. 
The interior of the sphere is filled with electronics and life-support equipment (WTF?? That's reason enough for me to say no, were I to be asked to pilot this thing), and is so small that while inside your legs are tightly bent and you can barely move your arms.  

James Cameron couldn't fully extend his arms, and he was in it for sixteen hours.  Which is fifteen hours and fifty-eight minutes longer than I would have lasted.
It was dark inside, so I lit Ed with a flashlight to get this picture.  You can see some of the equipment and how tight it looks around where his shoulders are wedged into the seat.  

The orb is equipped to ensure the pilot has oxygen and heat, and its 2.5" thick walls prevent his head from being crushed like a grape under pressure.  How nice.

The interior equipment within arm's reach consists of electronics, screens, circuit breakers, and tanks.  The pilot sits on a set of emergency batteries.  To his right are canisters and tanks that absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen (crucial), and to his left are buttons that control everything from power to communications.  Seems a bit more complicated than a CB radio, doesn't it?  Ed was fascinated.

The interior of the orb was designed to accommodate the pilot's exact bodily requirements - how much oxygen they take in and expel - to meet the physical needs of their breathing rate.  There are two compressed oxygen cylinders that will keep the pilot breathing for up to 56 hours.  He won't be able to move since his body will likely cramp in a bent position, but at least he'll be able to breathe.  Joy.
Ed's climb out was much easier than his wiggle in.
Since he was only in there for a few minutes, he was still smiling.  I'm thinking James Cameron, after his sixteen-hour stint, probably smiled for the cameras too, but probably couldn't wait to get home and fall onto a cushy mattress.  Learn more about the amazing orb HERE.  
The expedition itself sounds truly spectacular.  Read a little bit about it HERE and for more excitement, watch the trailer for the movie HERE.  I think now that I've seen the equipment and read the website, the only thing left is to see the movie.
And last but not least, here's a picture of Ed and Tito, the same guy who invited us on his 37-foot sailboat, even offering to let us sleep on it!  He was an extremely knowledgeable, personable, and generous guy.  I hope we'll have another chance to take him up on that offer.  
As we were leaving this area, a tour group was coming through.  They were taking pictures, but it didn't appear as if they were allowed to sit in the sphere.  How lucky are we??  We even got free t-shirts!  

Definitely one of our most fun trucking experiences ever.  For more on this entire operation, adventure and movie, check out the Deepsea Challenge 3D website.

And for another perspective on our fun (and prosperous) cross-country trek, check out Marlaina's post.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2013: Stormy Wyoming
2012: Entertaining The Masses
2011: A Very Expensive Day Of Laze
2010: A Little River On A Big Lake In The Middle Of A Floating Stage
2009: Eddie The Cicada Whisperer Friday
2008: Maybe We Should Sell Our Truck And Buy An Airboat
2007: Me And My Man
2006: If You’re Going To Rescue Me, Bring Sandwiches
2005: Hurricane Equality

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