Cramped Quarters

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.

James Cameron is obviously not claustrophobic. As the pilot and only crewmember of DEEPSEA CHALLENGER, he will be working in a very small space at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

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Cameron is an avid explorer with over 70 submersible dives to his credit. While aboard the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER submersible, Cameron was in a pilot sphere so small that he was not even able to extend his arms. Photograph by Charlie Arneson.

Cameron will sit within a sphere inside the sub. The sphere is formed externally from 6.4cm of steel. The interior compartment is 109cm in diameter and filled with electronic equipment and life support systems. Research proved that a sphere would be the best shape to withstand 16,000 pounds-per-square-inch of pressure. But how will Cameron be able to work comfortably in such cramped quarters?

Help your students to experience what he will feel with this simple lesson.

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He Did It!…Now We Want to Know What He Saw

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.

James Cameron has completed a near-impossible feat: He dove deep into the hadal depths of the Mariana Trench, almost 36,000′, and survived to tell of his experience. As a citizen of the world, I am blown away by this daring adventure into the unknown. Cameron is the expedition leader, pilot, and co-designer of the submersible DEEPSEA CHALLENGER. He has seen sights that no human has seen before. What was waiting for him in the depths of the Mariana Trench? This successful expedition has made us all hungry for more.

Cameron_SubRolex_02_MM8108_20120326_23579.jpgFilmmaker and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence James Cameron emerges from the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER submersible after his successful solo dive to the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean. 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.

I am a biology teacher, so I want to know what types of life exist
there. What did he see?

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Celebrate DEEPSEA CHALLENGE with National Geographic Education!

Filmmaker (Titanic, Avatar, Terminator) and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence James Cameron has become the first person to complete a solo journey to Challenger Deep, the terminus of the Mariana Trench, and the deepest known point on planet Earth at nearly 7 miles below sea level.

Although it’s more like 2 leagues than 20,000, the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE mission has the potential to bring mysteries of deep-ocean worlds to light for scientists, students, and dreamers alike. This incredible moment in the history of modern exploration is being reported by major news organizations around the world today (see stories on the New York Times and CNN), and the National Geographic Education team could not be more excited to share in the fervor.

As the educational outreach arm of the National Geographic Society, the organization sponsoring DEEPSEA CHALLENGE along with Rolex, we have developed a complete suite of materials to help teachers bring this scientific expedition to conduct deep-ocean research into their classrooms.  Here is a quick overview of the Nat Geo Education materials available.

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The main DEEPSEA CHALLENGE education hub features maps, multimedia, reference materials, and more.  Below is a list of five favorite resources:

Learn about important milestones in underwater exploration, including the sinking of the Titanic and the inventions of Jacques Cousteau, through photos, illustrations, and maps.

  • Marine Ecosystem Illustrations

Explore the flora and fauna of ocean environments–from coral reefs to the deep sea–with these collections of beautifully detailed illustrations for grades 3-5 and 9-12.

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Touch down! (not “touchdown”)

Doug Levin is the Associate Director for the Center for
Environment and Society at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland,
and is an expert in underwater exploration technology, as well as
designing fun programs that teach complex engineering concepts.

In the narrative below, Doug imagines that he is James Cameron traveling to the bottom of  Challenger Deep, as the famous filmmaker and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence did yesterday, Sunday,
March 25, 2012. See actual quotes from a press conference with James
Cameron following the successful dive on the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE and the National Geographic Education Twitter feeds.

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Filmmaker and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence James Cameron gives two thumbs-up as he emerges from the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER submersible after his successful solo dive to the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean. 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.

What did it feel like at touch down when Mr. Cameron finally settled into the fine muck at the true bottom of the sea? He landed at the point in the ocean where the drain that empties the world’s ocean could be installed. (Note that I didn’t put an “s” on the end of that [ocean], because all of the oceans are connected).  

So, imagine years of dreaming, designing, and building.  “Test” dives to depths deeper than anyone has ever gone.  Just read the email that Mr. Cameron sent to Don Walsh back on March 7, 2012, to really get a colorful flavor of the operation.  From all that I’ve read, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the euphoria of reaching these ocean depths will be tempered with flashbacks to all of the work and tests that preceded this monumental achievement.  Kind of like entering college in your freshman year, and the final celebration that ensues when you throw your mortarboard into the air at graduation.  The realization of the moment is short-lived, and then it’s time to “get to work.”

Here’s what I imagine from the comfort of my living room, thinking about this while sipping hot tea and looking out my back window. I–James Cameron–climb into the sub and am lowered into the water, sealed up so tightly that outside sounds cannot be heard directly.  Headphones transmit the “whirr” of the crane and the chatter between the crew and divers surrounding the sub, as it’s gently lowered into the water. I pass through the zone where the waves lap against my view to the outside.  The straps are released and I am cleared to descend.

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One Giant Leap

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.

PreDive_04_MM8108_20120326_23028.jpgFilmmaker 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.

 

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