The Conversation: Should We Care About James Cameron's Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea?

The Conversation: Should We Care About James Cameron's Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea?

Mar 26, 2012

(photo not from Cameron's latest voyage)

Was it just a show-off billionaire's brief vacation? A necessary expedition and testing ground for vital scientific equipment? A veiled publicity stunt tied to promoting the upcoming re-release of Titanic in 3D?

Yesterday filmmaker, geek and self-professed "King of the World" made news by piloting a one-man submersible to the deepest point of the ocean, earning him a world record for pulling off the feat solo. And after personally tweeting his accomplishment to his more than 267,000 followers (plus all who were reached via retweets), the Internet responded with either snarky jokes or genuine astonishment and praise. Too many, including Leonard Nimoy, mistakenly believed he went "where no man has gone before," but this was not the case. Two men already reached the depth together more than 50 years ago. 

Should we care? Isn't this just a rich man's pursuit, no different from anyone climbing Mount Everest after Sir Edmund Hillary or any of the wealthy space tourists (sorry, spaceflight participants) taking trips to the International Space Station simply for the experience (Ashton Kutcher included)? Some argue it's about awe and wonder, others note the exact study involved, one person implies this is a waste of money when people are starving in the world. Personally, I'm curious to see the 3D documentary that comes out of it, but little more. So long as Cameron doesn't accidentally open up some deeper cavern that's been caging prehistoric piranhas or giant shark creatures, he can do what he wants with his money and engineering interests. 

What are people saying about James Cameron's voyage? Here's The Conversation heard around the Internet:

I never knew James Cameron was so deep. - Scott Weinberg, @scottEweinberg

James Cameron isn't *personally* tweeting from the bottom of the Marianas Trench, right? cause if so, i'm DONE with AT&T. - David Ehrlich, @davidehrlich

Even with the hydraulic leak obscuring the explorer's vision, word has it that the ocean floor looked better than Titanic 3D. - S.T. VanAirsdale, Movieline

Cameron plans to shoot footage for a documentary, collect rock and soil samples, and — obviously — to locate the Heart of the Ocean, which totally could've been carried by sea currents all the way from the north Atlantic. - Andre Tartar, Vulture

Of course, this isn’t Cameron’s first trip underwater by a long shot; he was previously known as one of the few people in the world who have explored the wreck of the Titanic. Wait a minute... The film about that ship arrives back in cinemas next month! The cheeky blighter's gone and done this as a way of building awareness! - James White, Empire

Awaiting the tweet from James Cameron where he describes encountering underwater aliens who lecture him on the evils of nuclear war. - Steven Santos, @stevensantos

James Cameron is back from exploring the deepest part of the ocean. Let's hope he didn't stumble upon a Gungan society. - Depressed Darth, @DepressedDarth

Sure, James Cameron solo dived 10,898m to the bottom of the Mariana Trench for "science", NOT to "find Megatron". - Death Star PR, @DeathStarPR

James Cameron went to the depths of the ocean. Today, I follow his lead, and go to 114th and Broadway. - AB, @alecbaldwin

James Cameron is so fist-fighting the Ruler of Atlantis right now. GO KING OF THE SURFACE WORLD!!! - Damon Lindelof, @DamonLindelof

Can he stay down there and not make any more movies? - Jay Caruso, @jaycaruso

This is my favourite news story this month. Millionaire spends own funds on awesome science shit instead of blow - Georgiana Fleur, @GeorgianaFleur

Later this week, Cameron plans to use DNA trapped in a fossilized stalactite found in Africa to clone an ancient giant rodent so that he can make his dogs fight it. “God, I’m so bored,” said Cameron in a statement, shoveling bundles of money into a giant furnace. - Vince Manini, Film Drunk

James Cameron goes to the deepest point in the ocean, and some Talkbackers are bitching about it. How infuriating. It's the death of wonder. - Alan Cerny, @NordlingAICN

How dare he spend money and further our understanding of our planet & how to explore elsewhere in space. Snide humorless jabs about massively impressive human accomplishments rub me wrong. Pissing on accomplishments is shitty. The way I see it, anyone that doesn't understand the magnitude of accomplishing something as momentous as this, not a geek. - Harry Knowles, @headgeek666

So it's not ok to be unimpressed by the Victorian Era rich adventurer thing? I guess I just don't understand what the practical upside of being the first solo diver to that depth is. I bristle when the King of the World buys his way to a record. Just me. - Devin Faraci, @devincf

The man's using his money to advance science. That puts him well ahead of most rich D-bags. - Richard Jensen, @TheRagingCelt

Snark is easier than awe. If nothing impresses you, no one can call you out on the things you love. I guess I'm a total rube for thinking it's awesome to continue exploration and research on your own dime. - Drew McWeeny, @DrewAtHitFix

If this results in, say, a greater understanding of how the oceans are being debilitated? And more action to help? Amazing. - Kevin Biegel, @kbiegel

Can you believe what a garbage can country we live in? News networks aren't even covering exploration history. - Ryan Stewart, @crsryan

Back in 1960, Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh completed this same feat in a bathyscaphe, and while it was just as impressive then as it is now, the amount of information they could bring back was significantly lower. Cameron, on the other hand was armed with an aresenal of high tech gear including 3D cameras, a robotic claw, a sediment sampler, and a “slurp gun” for sucking up bottom-dwelling creatures for study at the surface. Cameron even managed to tweet from the depths, it seems. If so, then truly nothing is impossible. - Eric Limer, Geekosystem

The haul from Cameron’s trip included scientific data, specimens, and a 3-D recording of his adventure, and may signal a renaissance in deep-sea study. A full report on the findings will be released in National Geographic magazine. We’re pretty sure he didn’t find any blue people down there, but here’s hoping the new footage boasts a better plot than his last opus. - Ben Johnson, Slate

Cameron told NatGeo before he went under, "There is scientific value in getting stereo images because... you can determine the scale and distance of objects from stereo pairs that you can't from 2-D images." Plus, it looks awesome. (That's unofficial scientific lingo.) - Jenni Miller, NextMovie

Al Dove and Craig McClain point out at Deep Sea News that remotely operated vehicles are already the tool of choice for exploring the deep ocean. Without the need to support a human occupant, these far cheaper, smaller, more reliable and more nimble probes can stay down longer and get more done. For the cost of Cameron's expedition, and entire fleet of ROVs could be deployed to the Challenger Deep. [...] The ultimate value of Cameron's expedition is in the excitement it generates around the valuable deep sea scientific exploration already being conducted. To that end, here's my suggestion for Cameron and his sponsors: Drop the pretense of science. Bring to your deep sea dives the same sense of excitement -- of narrative -- that we find in Cameron's movies. - Christopher Mims, Technology Review

This morning’s headlines ranged from David Cameron’s suppers to James Cameron’s submarine, but there were few mentions of the developing food crisis in west Africa. - Craig Burnett, Red Cross Blog


Conversation Twitter Poll: Do you care that James Cameron is the first human to reach the bottom of the ocean solo?


Don't care that it's Cameron per se but think it's cool it was done. Better use of his creativity than Avatar 2 if you ask me. - Craig Kennedy, @LivingInCinema

I care--not intensely--because it feels like an immense achievement, even if it's one that only happened thanks to his riches. - Josh Spiegel, @mousterpiece

Doesn't bother me a filmmaker was 1st, but an arrogant jerk of any kind is a problem. Wish it could've been Jacques Cousteau. - nixskits, @nixskits2

Don't care that it was Cameron. Glad it happened, but would have preferred a real scientist in his place. - Karen Backstein, @KarenatashaB

I don't care either way, though I kinda wish he'd stay there. - Daniel Walber, @DSWalber

Did he take the TITANIC 3D prints with him? If not, I don't care. - Lucas McNelly, @lmcnelly

I care that someone did; it doesn't really matter to me who. James Cameron just adds an interesting trivia footnote to it. - John Gholson, @gholson

Do I care that it was him? No. Am I glad that he's using his fortune to advance research and exploration? Absolutely. - PeterSHall, @PeterSHall

Not in the slightest - makes more sense for an incredibly wealthy borderline obsessed individual to do it than anybody else! - thesubstream, @thesubstream

It's an achievement whoever it is, though James Cameron has never done anything to deserve any hatred. - Marcus Woolcott, @Gyropitus

It doesn't matter so much to me who did it, as that it was done. All science is good. - Donald G. Carter, @theangrymick


Follow Christopher Campbell on Twitter (@thefilmcynic) to join The Conversation.





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