Since the Dive
Knowledge Transfer and Partnerships
- On March 26, 2013, the one-year anniversary of his record-setting dive to Challenger Deep, Cameron announced a formal partnership with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), a world leader in oceanographic research and technology, specifically manned and unmanned deep submergence vehicles. The DEEPSEA CHALLENGER sub will be transferred to WHOI, where its engineering advancements will be incorporated into future research platforms and deep-sea expeditions beginning as early as this summer.
- Cameron joined the advisory board of WHOI’s newly formed Center for Marine Robotics.
- Production and postproduction have been ongoing for National Geographic’s DEEPSEA CHALLENGE 3D, a forthcoming documentary about the expedition.
Scientific Research and Publication
The expedition science team has conducted ongoing research based on analyses of water, sediment, biological samples, and extensive imagery collected by the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER and two free-falling landers. Cameron and expedition scientists have presented their preliminary research findings at academic conferences across the country, including the annual meetings of the American Geophysical Union, the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, and the Association of Sciences for Limnology and Oceanography.
- American Geophysical Union Annual Meeting (San Francisco, California, December 4, 2012): At this conference the expedition’s core science team, together with James Cameron, presented details about the engineering behind the submersible and shared the preliminary scientific results of the expedition’s research. (Also watch National Geographic News video of Cameron discussing the preliminary findings.)
- Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology Annual Meeting (San Francisco, California, January 7, 2013): At this conference, expedition scientists presented preliminary biological science findings.
- Association of Sciences for Limnology and Oceanography Aquatic Sciences Meeting (New Orleans, Louisiana, February 22, 2013): At this conference, expedition scientists presented preliminary biological analyses.
What’s Next for the Expedition’s Scientific Research?
Following a year of new discoveries, DEEPSEA CHALLENGE expedition scientists continue their analysis of water and sediment samples, video and still images, and oceanographic and geological data collected in the New Britain and Mariana Trenches by the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER and its complementary science platform, a free-falling lander. Microbiologists have already identified 43 new microbial species, yet a staggering 18,000 of the 20,000 individual microbes isolated from the expedition’s water samples remain to be analyzed. This is a time-intensive process that may take years but that is likely, statistically speaking, to yield even more new species.
In addition, cultures continue to be grown under conditions that mimic the high-pressure, low-temperature environment of the ocean’s trenches. Biologists have identified two new species of shrimplike crustaceans known as amphipods; identified the deepest sea cucumber ever observed; sampled the deepest expression of gigantism in amphipods ever sampled; and identified a compound in amphipods that is in clinical trials to treat Alzheimer’s. And yet a great deal of work remains to be done to better understand how these organisms adapt to the deep-ocean-trench ecosystem, and their implications for broader scientific—and pharmaceutical—research.
Earth and planetary scientists are wrapping up their analysis of sediment collected in the Mariana Trench’s Sirena Deep. Cameras deployed to the Sirena Deep may have captured our planet’s deepest known microbial community thriving solely on the byproducts of serpentinization, a chemical reaction between mantle rocks and water. The heat and gases produced by this reaction are an important energy source for microorganisms. This discovery could have theory-altering ramifications on origin-of-life hypotheses and the search for life on other planets. All in all, the rich data set collected as part of the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE expedition continues to provide a significant contribution to our understanding of the underexplored deep-ocean trenches—Earth’s final frontier.