Lori Roberts is a high school biology teacher in Muscle
Shoals, Alabama. Lori is a leader in ocean education and is a graduate
of National Geographic Education’s two-year professional development
program, the National Teacher Leadership Academy.
Students are interested in exploration of the unknown, however, most of my students know very little about ocean exploration or the explorers involved in these expeditions. I wanted to understand their perception of ocean exploration, so I placed them into small groups and asked them to brainstorm reasons why we should explore the deep trenches of the seafloor, such as the Mariana Trench. I received a variety of responses:
To find new species
Make a new discovery
New discoveries lead to new inventions
It will improve our understanding of Earth
It’s cool to be the first one to go where no one else has been before (Kids enjoy competition in and out of school. Competition encourages them to be their best.)
Many are calling the Mariana Trench the last frontier. In 1960, Don Walsh became the first American to descend almost 36,000′. Don Walsh, a U.S. Navy Captain, was only 28 at the time. Walsh, now 80, was invited by James Cameron to hang out with the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE expedition team. He was a witness on the adventure.
Filmmaker and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence James Cameron is
congratulated by ocean explorer and U.S. Navy Capt. Don Walsh, right,
after completing the first ever solo dive 35,756 feet down to the
“Challenger Deep,” the lowest part of the Mariana Trench. Walsh took the
same journey to the bottom of the Mariana Trench 52 years ago in the
bathyscaphe Trieste, with Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard. Cameron’s
dive in his specially designed submersible was part of DEEPSEA
CHALLENGE, a joint scientific expedition by Cameron, the National
Geographic Society, and Rolex to conduct deep-ocean research. Photograph by Mark Thiessen, National Geographic.
Shannon Switzer is an award-winning photographer, published writer, and National Geographic Young Explorer whose work focuses on ocean conservation.
Right about now, I imagine James Cameron and his DEEPSEA CHALLENGE team are
kicking back with several bottles of bubbly to celebrate their
monumental accomplishment. In this world, whose far-flung corners seem
to shrink closer together every day, it’s increasingly difficult to have
new “firsts” in exploration. So when one is achieved, it’s important to
pause and acknowledge it. Successfully engineering a sub to withstand
16,000 pounds-per-square-inch of pressure and dive solo to the deepest
spot on the ocean floor is one of those special occasions that calls for
celebration. The real success, however, is yet to come.
Filmmaker and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence James Cameron gets a handshake from ocean explorer and U.S. Navy Capt. Don Walsh, right, just before the hatch on the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER submersible is closed and the voyage to the deepest part of the ocean begins. Walsh took the same journey to the bottom of the Mariana Trench 52 years ago in the bathyscaphe Trieste with Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard. Cameron is the first person to complete the dive solo. The dive was part of DEEPSEA CHALLENGE, a joint scientific expedition by Cameron, the National Geographic Society, and Rolex to conduct deep-ocean research. Photo by Mark Thiessen/National Geographic.
Wednesday’s post explained a bit about the new branding and direction for the National Geographic Education blog–look for more information about that in the coming months. More importantly for our current purposes, we also mentioned that we will be focusing on DEEPSEA CHALLENGE, a historic event in ocean exploration, over the coming weeks. If you recall, James Cameron announced to the world this past Wednesday that he will be setting off (or rather, down) in a solo submersible that will take him to the bottom of the ocean and the deepest known place on Earth: Challenger Deep, located in the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean.
Here are five fast facts about the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE expedition to digest as you’re brewing your morning coffee this Saturday–and then regurgitate during your evening cocktail hour to impress your friends (the facts, not the coffee–that would be gross). Who: National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and Hollywood film director James Cameron (Terminator, Titanic, Avatar). While the dive itself is a solo venture, a dedicated team of scientists and engineers will support Cameron.
What: The DEEPSEA CHALLENGE expedition is an attempt by James Cameron to explore the deepest part of the ocean. While at the bottom, Cameron will perform important scientific experiments and collect media (i.e. photos, video).
Photo of James Cameron by Mark Thiessen, National Geographic
When: Right now! On Wednesday, March 7, James Cameron announced that he
would be attempting this great exploratory feat over the coming weeks.
We’ll be following along on the Nat Geo Education blog, as will the
larger National Geographic community. You can see the latest updates from the crew