National Geographic


The Team

More than a hundred people, ranging from engineers to biologists to filmmakers, came together to make this expedition happen. Members of the science team were on hand for the dives to provide analysis of never before collected samples and data from these depths, while engineers and crew members were on-site to make sure that everything went as planned. All together, the team boasts thousands of hours of deep-sea experience.


James Cameron, Expedition Leader, Submersible Co-designer, and Pilot
An experienced diver and leader of seven previous deep-ocean expeditions, James Cameron was named a National Geographic explorer-in-residence in 2011. He is an Academy Award-winning director with a passion for exploration, having climbed into submersibles for more than 70 dives. Among these dives were several to the wreck of Titanic, which Cameron explored studiously before, during, and after making his Oscar-winning film about the ship. In connection with these and many other dives, he has produced several acclaimed underwater documentaries, including his first digitally shot IMAX 3-D film, Ghosts of the Abyss, in 2001. The opportunity to explore new frontiers and advance the limits of science has fueled his fascination with the mysteries of the underwater world. Traveling to the bottom of Challenger Deep was a long-term goal of his, and he hopes that his journey inspires others to embrace exploration and discovery too.

Learn more about James Cameron

Ron Allum, Submersible Co-designer and Pilot
Ron Allum developed the original submersible concept with Cameron. Allum, whose past includes a career as a broadcast engineer and years of cave diving, spent a year and a half creating the foam that’s a critical component of the sub. He and Cameron co-founded Acheron, a company dedicated to building the entirely new, full-ocean-depth submersible for human transport, documentation, and research.

Learn more about Ron Allum

Sub Engineering/Operations

David Wotherspoon, Sub Team Leader, Launch and Recovery Team Leader
David Wotherspoon was Australian project manager/submersible operations director on the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE Expedition. Prior to that, he worked as a senior consultant for Phaze Zero, and before that he had a varied military career. After enlisting in the Corps of Royal Engineers in 1983, he trained as a mechanical engineer and military diving supervisor and saw active service in Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, Northern Ireland, and Afghanistan. Wotherspoon enlisted in the Australian Defence Force in January 2007, where he served as a development officer in the Special Operations Command (SOCOMD). During this period, he project-managed a number of technically challenging projects. He ended his military career in January 2010 before joining the expedition on loan. He was born in Oban, Scotland, in 1967.

David Apperly, Sub Team, Launch and Recovery Team
David Apperly brings a wealth of experience to the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE project, both as a commercial diver and an electrical engineer. He worked on the submersible’s thruster systems and is a support diver on the expedition’s vehicle launch and recovery team. He lives in Brooklyn, New South Wales, Australia. An avid cave diver, he was hired as an underwater double for the feature film Sanctum. Along with John Garvin, he helped support Tanya Streeter in her 2003 world record dive attempt in the Caribbean.

Joseph Barkoczy, Sub Team
Australian Joseph Barkoczy joined the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE project as an electronics engineer to work on the submersible’s lighting system. He also worked to design and build the interior wiring inside the submersible’s pilot sphere, a complex task considering the number of different systems involved. Barkoczy has a background in avionics, and has worked on everything from light aircraft to jumbo jets for several companies, including Qantas, AEA, and Garmin. He also built and flies his own helicopter. Barkoczy is a skilled musician and designs and builds high-end speaker systems and amplifiers for professional musicians. He finds that music provides him with inspiration.

Nicolas Bingham, Sub Team
Nicolas Bingham graduated from the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), with a B.Sc in Nanotechnology in 2004. During the following years, he developed novel conductive fluids and a thermal inkjet system for printed electronics at Canon Information Systems Research Australia (CISRA). In 2008, he was awarded a M.Sc degree by research, as well as several Australian and U.S. patents on the basis of this work. Since then, he has furthered his personal interests in robotics and automation, developing software, motor controllers, and related systems for industrial machine tools. He began development of the brushless thruster controller and power distribution systems for the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER in 2011.

Ty Boyce, Sub Team
Ty Boyce is a principal at Edge Innovations. Boyce liked taking things apart as a child and went on to study electrical and mechanical engineering at Stanford University. After Stanford, Boyce went to work for IDEO, a world-renowned product development company, and worked on products for clients such as Apple, HP, Xerox, Kodak, NEXT, and multiple start-ups. Walt Conti asked boyce to manage and build the electronic and control systems for James Cameron’s underwater movie, The Abyss, after which Boyce joined Conti in building Edge Innovations, where they applied the latest technology to the creation of Animatronics for the film and entertainment industries.

Boyce focuses on systems design and development and management at Edge. His projects include Terminator 2, Free Willy, Flipper, Anaconda, Deep Blue Sea, The Perfect Storm, and The Life Aquatic. His clients include Universal Studios (Japan and Orlando), Disney, and Wynn Resorts.

Robert Brunelle, Sub Team, Lander Team
Robert “Bruno” Brunelle is a systems engineer in Cameron | Pace Group, the world’s leading producer of 3-D imaging technology. During the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE expedition, Brunelle’s role is to maintain the 3-D cameras mounted on the submersible and twin lander vehicles. Dividing his time between Burbank and Toronto, Brunelle has worked on creating the 3-D systems for many major films, including Cameron’s Avatar and Titanic Live.

Tim Bulman, Sub Team, Communications Team
Canadian Tim Bulman is an electrical engineer, commercial diver, and submersible pilot/technician. Bulman helped design the communication systems on the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER. He’s been working with manned submersibles and deep-ocean remotely operated vehicles for 14 years, including working on James Cameron’s Titanic Live expedition in 2005. Bulman has also worked on the Deep Worker submersibles in Vancouver, piloted a sub for coral studies in Hawaii, harvested sponges off Palau for cancer research, recovered a NASA solid rocket booster off Cape Canaveral, and provided ROV/submersible support during a crossing of the Northwest Passage. Bulman runs marine technology consulting company In Depth Marine and is married with two children. He lives on Vancouver Island.

Ray Commins, Communications Team
Ray Commins is an electronic technician with L-3 Nautronix, where he has worked as a field service engineer since 1994, mostly in the oil and gas industry. His work has taken him around the world (Malaysia, Brunei, Myanmar, India, South Africa, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, Brazil, Gulf of Mexico, and the North Sea). Prior to that, he worked on sailing ships and motor yachts for four years as a mate, conducting adventure cruises in the southwest Pacific and Southern Australia. He lives in Busselton, Western Australia.

Walt Conti, Sub Team
Walt Conti is founder and CEO of Edge Innovations, creator of dozens of highly integrated robotic systems for film and television, including James Cameron’s The Abyss and Terminator 2. Conti designed and built the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER’s lower pod. Working on a full-ocean-depth submersible presented a unique challenge for Conti, although he had worked on underwater robots before: For Star Trek IV, he created the world’s first realistic, free-swimming robotic whales. Some of Conti’s other aquatic animal creations feature in Free Willy, Anaconda, and Deep Blue Sea. Prior to founding Edge, Conti worked in product development and was involved in the design of numerous consumer and medical equipment related products. Conti graduated from Stanford University, receiving a B.S. and M.S. in engineering.

Nicolas Corkill, Launch and Recovery Team
Nicolas Corkill is a safety diver for the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE expedition and has been working on the project since December. His work onboard is primarily with the in-water safe launch and recovery of the submersible. He is a commercial diver who has just left Australia after two years of working and traveling there. Previously he served in the Royal Navy for six years and was later a deckhand on a super yacht, a PADI dive instructor, and an underwater videographer. Originally from Greater London, Nick has traveled and worked extensively throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia.

John Garvin, Sub Team, Launch and Recovery Team
John Garvin, Sphere internal life-support manager, has been diving since 1990 and is recognized as one of the world’s leading technical diving instructors. After years of teaching diving in the U.K., Garvin moved to the Turks and Caicos Islands, where he set up and ran his own technical diving facility and ran rebreather expeditions to the world’s most remote and exciting dive sites, including the Galápagos, Bikini, and Chuuk Lagoon. Garvin founded the Caicos Caves Project, a team of experienced cave divers dedicated to exploring the incredible underwater cave systems beneath the islands. He is also a qualified recompression-chamber safety officer. In 2003 Garvin provided the logistics and safety diver support for Tanya Streeter’s world-record-breaking freedive to 540 feet (160 meters). In 2010 Garvin worked as dive coordinator and underwater stunt consultant for the 2011 action-adventure film Sanctum. In addition to writing the screenplay, he trained the actors and stunt divers to dive rebreathers and was also featured as a stunt diver and actor in the film.

Adam Gobi, Sub Team
Canadian Adam Gobi was nearly finished with a Ph.D. in underwater robotics when in late 2010 he found himself visiting Sydney University for collaborative research. He eventually learned that James Cameron had a small crew of Aussies building a submarine just a few neighborhoods away, and his gut was loud and clear in proclaiming it was his next step in life. On a recommendation from the Australian Centre for Field Robotics, Gobi was hired by Acheron to create the 2-D and 3-D full-ocean-depth camera systems for the sub and lander systems. In what has turned out to be the most challenging project he’s ever taken on, a strong Newfoundland work ethic keeps him focused on making sure his cameras continue to capture 3-D imagery of the deepest parts of the Earth. He also still needs to finish his doctorate.

David Goldie, Sub Team
David Goldie is an experienced mechanical engineer. Driven by his love of the ocean and extreme challenges, Goldie was an obvious fit for this expedition.  He has worked for several years in the Australian film industry in the special effects departments of such movies as The Matrix and its sequels. He has been tinkering in various workshops from a young age and has a reputation for being able to work in many different materials and provide prompt and innovative solutions to a wide array of mechanical engineering problems. Recently he has designed and built kite-powered sleds and tested them in the Canadian Arctic and created a self-propelled burrowing robot worm. Since the expedition ended in March 2012 he has spent time developing a miniature water desalinator and various special effects film jobs. He has been kite-ski touring the Australian Alps and resurrecting old climbing routes on the Sydney sea cliffs. He is also the life support engineer for Dr. Glen and Heather Singleman’s altitude world-record wing suit jump attempt scheduled for July 2013. This involves integrating oxygen systems into their wing suits for a jump from 39,000 feet (11, 900 meters). Goldie has received no formal education since the age of 16.

Nicolas Hannekum, Sub Team
Australian Nic Hannekum joined the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE project to work on the submersible’s powerful LED arrays and batteries, as well as the landers. He developed novel software and hardware, including a general-purpose circuit board, the MSD (Micro-Step Driver). Fascinated by electronics from a young age, Hannekum earned a diploma in electronics technology at North Sydney TAFE and since 2003 has worked in the electronic engineering departments of Charles Darwin University and the University of Newcastle. Hannekum has found the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE project to be an enjoyable and stimulating experience and would like to continue working in the marine technology industry. He would also like to learn to dive.

James Kennedy, Sub Team
Australian James Kennedy is a battery specialist on DEEPSEA CHALLENGER’s battery management system (BMS). He joined the project for a day’s work in November and ended up staying. Since then Kennedy’s involvement expanded to include manufacture and maintenance of the submersible’s and landers’ hundred-plus battery modules, as well as consulting on the thruster control system. Kennedy graduated with a bachelor of engineering from the University of Queensland, where he became involved with the Sunshark solar-powered racing car team. This experience led to the formation of Kennedy’s company Tritium, which specializes in high-power electronics and battery management for electric vehicles.

Luis Marmolejo, Sub Team
Australian Luis Marmolejo designed, procured, and programmed the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER’s control system, which enables the pilot to command the submersible’s many individual devices and systems. Trained as an electrical engineer, he holds a B.Sc. in electronics and communications and a master’s in computing and has specialized in industrial equipment and systems design for many years. Marmolejo has worked in five countries on a wide variety of projects, including steel mills, oil exploration companies, intelligent transport systems, and IBM.

Ben Orchard, Sub Team
Ben Orchard works for Opto 22, a southern California company that created the hardware and software for the computer control system on the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER. Born and bred in Australia, Orchard moved his family from Ballarat, Victoria, to Temecula, California, four years ago to work for Opto 22. Prior to that, he spent 18 years working as an engineer for the Ballarat Base Hospital. Ben is part of the sub internal team. Since the automation controller controls and monitors almost every system on the submarine, he is involved in almost every aspect of the electronics and computer systems. He is also a member of the hatch team, responsible for closing and opening the hatch at the start and end of every dive.

Sarkis Sako Palandjian, Launch and Recovery Team
Palandjian’s role on the expedition is to drive and repair the expedition’s support craft—the 30-foot (9-meter) Prime RHIB and several Zodiacs. Born and raised in Newport, Rhode Island, Palandjian moved to Los Angeles in 1984.
 He has been a mechanic since the age of 13, when while spending time at his father’s shop, he learned how to turn a wrench. He started racing cars, then bikes, and eventually offshore boats.
 He says, “My experience maintaining these toys comes from them not running when they were purchased.”
 DEEPSEA CHALLENGE is Palandjian’s second expedition with James Cameron—he also participated in the 2005 expedition to the Titanic wreck to film Last Mysteries of the Titanic.

Paul Roberts, Sub Team
Paul Roberts of L-3 Nautronix is an electonics engineer and a project manager. His role on the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE expedition is to maintain and operate the communications systems between the submersible and the surface, which also provides tracking information used to monitor the vehicle’s location. Roberts has over 20 years’ experience in the development of systems and software for a wide range of commercial and military applications. He has lived in many different countries and immigrated to Perth, Australia, in 1995, where he and his wife Michele have three sons who all enjoy the Perth outdoor lifestyle. Roberts holds a B.Sc. (hons) in computer systems and electronic engineering from Kings College (University of London) and has won various engineering awards.

Richard Robles, Launch and Recovery Team
Richard Robles has supported James Cameron on seven previous deep-ocean expeditions. Specializing in launch and recovery and amphibious support, he has played critical roles in operations at sea, among them the return to Titanic chronicled in Ghosts of the Abyss and the exploration of hydrothermal vent sites featured in Aliens of the Deep. A Gulf War veteran and former member of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Robles has a background in special operations and degrees in computer science and criminal justice. On the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE, Rich functions as coxswain, among other roles, in expedition logistics, operations, and support.

Bruce Sutphen, Sub Team, Lander Team, Launch and Recovery Team
San Diegan Bruce Sutphen was the U.S. project manager for the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE build. His extensive seagoing experience also made him a valuable member of the expedition team; he was part of the Sub Team, Lander Team, and Launch and Recovery Team. A physicist by education, Sutphen has 25 years in scaled modeling and project-management experience associated with Grand Prix Yachting (including Circumnavigation and America’s Cup campaigns). He has also worked on U.S. military and subsea robotics programs. An experienced sailor, his DEEPSEA CHALLENGE responsibilities ranged from running the scaled-model launch and retrieval and vehicle dynamic-stability testing, to managing the U.S. composite and lower-pod robotics fabrication for the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE.

Ben Grant, Sub Team
Queenslander Ben Grant is an electronics specialist on the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE project. He spent eight years in the Australian Navy working as an electronics technician. During this time he served aboard the H.M.A.S. Leeuwin, H.M.A.S. Brunei, and H.M.A.S. Kanimbla in a variety of roles. This included peacekeeping duties in the Solomon Islands in 2005. Grant left the navy in 2010 to work for defense contractor Raytheon on the Australian Air Warfare Destroyer project and joined DEEPSEA CHALLENGE in June 2011 as an electronics technician. He has since worked on many of the submersible’s systems, including the thrusters, external wiring, 3-D camera systems, and battery management system, as well as acoustic communications.

Expedition Team

Charlie Arneson, Expedition Logistics
Charlie Arneson has more than 20 years of professional experience in marine sciences. He codeveloped two marine research facilities in Micronesia and has authored and coauthored more than 30 scientific papers and popular articles, as well as participated in more than 40 scientific and photographic cruises. He has used submersibles for scientific studies and made a ten-day saturation dive in an underwater habitat. He is currently involved with a dive operation in Micronesia, a reforestation project in Panama, and sustainable living projects near Santa Barbara, California. Charlie was general manager and vice president of the Twentieth Century Fox film studio in Rosarito, Mexico, where he also developed and managed Foxploration, a cinema theme park. He consults for film studio construction and management projects in the U.S. and numerous other countries.

John Bruno, Expedition Film Director
John Bruno is an Academy Award winner and six-time Oscar nominee in the field of visual effects. One of the most acclaimed visual effects artists in Hollywood, Bruno won the Academy Award for his work on The Abyss and was nominated for his visual effects work on Ghostbusters, Poltergeist II, Batman Returns, Cliffhanger, and True Lies. He has most recently served as visual effects supervisor on Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Avatar, Rush Hour 3, X-Men: The Last Stand, and Alien vs. Predator, and was 3-D consultant on Monsters vs Aliens. Bruno was part of the team that established DIGITAL DOMAIN, serving as visual effects supervisor on True Lies. In 1995, Bruno spent five months in the preproduction phase of Titanic as visual effects supervisor (making the first of four dives to the famous ship) before directing Virus, starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Sutherland, in 1996. Prior to this, he designed the visual effects for James Cameron’s Terminator II and codirected T2 3-D: Battle Across Time with Cameron. Bruno received the Belding Award (in advertising) for his short theatrical film The Run

Dr. Joe MacInnis, Expedition Journalist
Expedition journalist Joe MacInnis is a physician-scientist, writer, and deep-sea explorer who studies leadership in high-risk environments. He has led ten research expeditions under the ice of the Arctic Ocean, worked with marine scientists two miles (three kilometers) under the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and spent time with astronauts who built the International Space Station. Supported by the Canadian Forces, he recently spent time in Afghanistan interviewing soldiers and airmen fighting the Taliban. MacInnis has written ten books, including the companion books to James Cameron’s last two deep-sea expeditions. On the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE Expedition, MacInnis was the backup medical doctor and electronic journalist. He kept a daily log and took video and still photographs of the action, posting content to the expedition website in conjunction with National Geographic. (For more, visit Last year, Random House published his latest book, Deep Leadership: Essential Insights from High-Risk Environments. MacInnis is currently giving keynote presentations and workshops on leadership to universities and corporations, working on a leadership project with Canada’s Special Forces, and working with James Cameron on Cameron’s expedition book.

Dr. Glenn Singleman, Expedition Doctor and Second Unit Director
Expedition doctor and second unit director Glenn Singleman is a medical doctor who has worked in emergency and intensive care medicine for 20 years. He also has a communications diploma in film and television and postgraduate qualifications in underwater medicine and parachute systems technology. As a doctor, Singleman has accompanied extreme-environment expeditions to Antarctica, the Himalaya, the Karakorum, and the Andes, and has traveled to the wreck of the Titanic in the Mir 1 submersible. He has made four documentary films for National Geographic television and obtained numerous world records in extreme sport. His best known world record is for the highest wingsuit BASE jump in the world—with his wife, Heather—from 21,667 feet (6,604 meters) off Mount Meru in the Garwhal Himalaya in India in 2006. Singleman and his wife plan to set the record for distance wingsuit flying by taking a balloon to 38,000 feet (11,582 meters) over the Australian outback and hitching a ride on the high-altitude jet stream winds to fly over 17 miles (27 kilometers). Singleman continues to build on his extensive experience as a remote-medicine specialist, including serving as a doctor for the Big Red Run—a 150-mile (240-kilomter) ultramarathon through Australia’s Simpson Desert to raise money for diabetes research.

Maria Wilhelm, Expedition Partnerships
Maria Wilhelm works with James Cameron on a wide array of projects. The president of the corporate development group for the CAMERON companies and executive director of the Avatar Alliance Foundation, she’s supported the expedition through media and commercial partnerships with primary collaborators National Geographic and Rolex. Wilhelm has been involved in the structure and strategic growth of the CAMERON | PACE Group, a 3-D technologies and services company, in social advocacy with a focus on climate change, and in creative endeavors associated with the movie Avatar. A trustee of the African Wildlife Foundation and a member of the Explorers Club, she has found herself at the bottom of Lake Baikal in a Russian Mir submersible, sleeping in a Kayapo village 14 hours up the Xingu River in the Brazilian Amazon, and dunking in the Ganges during the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar—all in of a day’s work in the fascinating territory she calls Cameronland.

Science Team

Professor Douglas Bartlett, Chief Scientist, Microbiologist
Professor Douglas Bartlett, chief scientist and microbiologist, has extensive experience studying the nature of microbial life in deep-ocean trenches and other deep-sea settings. His research group pioneered genetic studies of these alien-like microbes and was the first to identify genes regulated by pressures of thousands of pounds per square inch and genes that are required for high-pressure growth. Bartlett earned his Ph.D. in prokaryotic molecular biology from the University of Illinois, was a research scientist at the Agouron Institute, and later assumed a faculty position at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, where he now holds the rank of professor. Since returning from the expedition, Bartlett has participated in cruises to the Tonga Trench and the San Clemente Basin and has lectured on the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE Expedition at scientific symposia in the United States, Europe, and Asia, as well as to students and general audiences via webinar, grade-school assemblies, and public presentations. Much of his time has been devoted to analyzing the microbiological samples returned from the expedition.

Dr. Patricia Fryer, Geologist
Geologist Patricia Fryer, Ph.D., is interested in tectonic-plate subduction, the process that forms ocean trenches and island arcs. She is a veteran of 45 marine research expeditions, often in the role of chief scientist, and her research has focused on the very deepest parts of the Mariana Trench, including the question of why the Challenger Deep is so deep. She also has an active interest in serpentine mud volcanoes formed as a consequence of the subduction in the Mariana Trench. A keen proponent of piloted submersibles, Fryer has dived in the human-occupied vehicles (HOVs) Alvin and Shinkai 6500, and has conducted expeditions with remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). She received her college degree in geology from the College of William and Mary, and her graduate degrees in geology and geophysics from the University of Hawaii. Since the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE Expedition, Fryer has been busy resolving the complex tectonic history of the Mariana Trench region. She is also working with Kevin Hand, Ph.D., and Doug Bartlett, Ph.D., to understand the biological implications of microbial communities observed thriving on serpentinized peridotite in the Sirena Deep. Fryer is part of a consortium of scientists planning the first National Forum on Ocean Exploration, which is committed to establishing and enabling new partnerships, investments, technology development, and expeditions to explore the world’s oceans.

Dr. Kevin Hand, Astrobiologist
Astrobiologist Kevin P. Hand, Ph.D., is deputy chief scientist for solar system exploration at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. His research focuses on the origin, evolution, and distribution of life in the solar system, with an emphasis on Jupiter’s second large moon, Europa. His work involves both theoretical and laboratory research on the physics and chemistry of icy moons in the outer solar system and has taken him to the Dry Valleys of Antarctica, the depths of the Earth’s oceans, and the glaciers of Kilimanjaro. In 2011 he was selected as a National Geographic emerging explorer. Hand earned his Ph.D. from Stanford University and bachelors degrees from Dartmouth College. He was born and raised in Manchester, Vermont. As part of the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE Expedition, Hand focused on sampling sediments for deep-ocean organic walled foraminifera. On the last lander drop of the expedition in the Mariana Trench’s Sirena Deep, cameras captured a unique microbial community thriving on the surface of serpentinized peridotite. Using various spectroscopic methods to analyze and identify the sediment recovered from the site, Hand is working to link life in this extreme environment to the origin of life on Earth and other planets and Europa.

Dr. Christina Massell Symons, Geologist
Dr. Christina Massell Symons received her Ph.D. in earth sciences in 2002 from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. She logged 200-plus days at sea onboard research vessels and two days below sea level in DSV Alvin and DSRV Avalon, mapping the seafloor along the rim of the Pacific Ocean Basin. Symons’ primary focus was investigating the subducting plate at the Peru-Chile Trench, the Tonga-Kermadec Trench, and the Aleutian Trench. Her exploration of trenches supported her effort to unravel the complex tectonic history of the Pacific Basin. Following completion of post-doctoral research, Symons worked on a National Science Digital Library collection, a collaborative effort among Scripps scientists, librarians, educators, and data managers to create a digital library environment for earth science education. As a science spokeswoman, she is eager to share her enthusiasm for exploration of our planet in hopes of inspiring future scientists, educators and leaders.

Dr. Erika Montague, Ocean Technologist
Dr. Erika Montague is an ocean technologist with a fascination for the wonders of the deep sea. Entranced by bioluminescence as a student, she embarked on a graduate degree in marine biology, emerging with a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University. Joining expeditions to remote locations and diving aboard deep-diving submersibles, Montague was soon hooked on exploration of the ocean. Through these experiences, she realized that to better understand the deep-sea ecosystem would require access to instruments that did not yet exist; Montague set about developing skills in marine engineering. Over the next few years she built a low-light, deep-sea observatory; developed undersea lander vehicles; and invented an autonomous tissue sampler for collection of DNA from deep-sea fishes. During the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE expedition, Montague will be working with the lander and submersible teams, helping to maintain and deploy scientific instruments and sampling devices.

Roger Chastain, Microbiologist
Roger Chastain is currently a staff research associate at Scripps Institution of Oceangraphy. He has over 25 years’ experience isolating, culturing, and studying the physiology of marine microorganisms, especially those collected from the severe environments of the deep sea. His research has addressed both the upper temperature and upper pressure limits of life. He has also studied the effects of decompression of deep-trench bacteria with regard to their survival, morphology, and structural integrity, demonstrating the unique adaptations of these life forms to biophysical conditions distinct from the surface of Earth. Chastain has a great deal of technical expertise maintaining equipment that must be operated at hydrostatic pressures mimicking deep-sea conditions and in collecting deep-sea samples using autonomous landers.

Peter Batson, Science Coordinator
Peter Batson is science coordinator for DEEPSEA CHALLENGE. His role is to facilitate the expedition’s science program in cooperation with participating scientists and the wider oceanographic community. He has a M.Sc. in marine science from the Department of Marine Science at New Zealand’s University of Otago, where he studied lace corals on the edge of the continental shelf. From 2005 he worked as a project researcher for submersible logistics company Deep Ocean Expeditions. Batson feels privileged to be part of DEEPSEA CHALLENGE.

Lander Team

Kevin Hardy
Kevin Hardy directs the design, construction, and operation of unmanned landers for the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE expedition. In grade school, Hardy was inspired by the imaginative and bold ocean engineering projects of the time, including the U.S. Navy’s SeaLab and bathyscaphe Trieste projects and the French Conshelf habitats and bathyscaphe Archimede. He landed a job at Scripps Institution in 1972, while working on a B.S. in engineering from San Diego State University. At Scripps, he designed and built sensors and samplers for marine scientists and deployed them around the world. He has participated in more than 150 research expeditions. He retired from Scripps in 2011 but remains active in the deep-sea community. Hardy’s unmanned landers have made the round-trip to the floor of the Kermadec, Tonga, Aleutian, Puerto Rico, New Britain, and Mariana Trenches.

Robby Seid
Robby Seid is a self-taught engineer who helped to build—and now operates—DEEPSEA CHALLENGE’s lander vehicles. Seid had just returned from his summer job—commercially fishing for salmon in Bristol Bay, Alaska—when he met engineer Kevin Hardy at a UCSD function. Hardy had recently commenced building the landers and recognized Seid’s potential to assist with the project. Three weeks later Seid was building deep-sea landers for James Cameron, and several months after that he found himself on the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE expedition. He has a B.A in environmental studies from UCSC. When not at work Seid loves to travel.

Larry Herbst
American Larry Herbst built the 3-D video and still camera systems aboard the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER’s two deep-sea lander vehicles and is aboard the Mermaid Sapphire to operate and maintain them. He first met James Cameron in 1986 and since then has worked on a number of Cameron projects, including the 3-D Imax film Aliens of the Deep, for which he produced time-lapse sequences. Herbst holds a bachelor of electrical engineering from Brown University and a masters of film from USC. He has worked in a variety of roles on many films and documentaries, many of them for the History Channel.

ROV Quasar Team

Donald Cameron, ROV Pilot, Launch and Recovery Team
Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, Cameron has worked on the Mermaid Sapphire since it was delivered to Thailand in 2009. His ROV background spans 25 years, and he has worked on many oil and gas projects, including liquid cargo salvage, subsea construction, remote intervention, survey, and inspection. Cameron’s official title is offshore construction manager (OCM), the senior offshore project representative for Mermaid Offshore Services. On the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE expedition, Cameron is responsible for ROV team operations, integration of ancillary equipment to the ROV, assisting in the launch and recovery of the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER, the science landers, the surface support craft, and operations on deck.

Colin Flagg, ROV Technician
Colin Flagg served eight years in the British Merchant Navy before becoming a remote operated vehicle technician in the oil and gas industry. His ROV work took him to the Philippines in 2007, where he continued to work and live until being posted on the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE project and the ROV Quasar this year. ROV Quasar provides dive support down to depths of almost 6,560 feet (2,000 meters). The ROV team also plays a leading role in the launch and recovery of DEEPSEA CHALLENGER submersible from the Mermaid Sapphire

Gavin Cole, ROV Supervisor, Launch and Recovery Team
Gavin Cole is 35 and from Daviot, a wee village in the northeast of Scotland. Cole completed a H.N.D. in electronic engineering at Aberdeen College in 2004. For the last eight years he has worked in the offshore oil and gas sector, first as a subsea acoustics engineer, before moving into the ROV industry, where he has progressed to a supervisory position. Cole’s involvement in the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE project is ROV support, and he is part of the submersible launch-and-recovery team. He is thrilled to be involved in this expedition. Working with National Geographic and James Cameron is a great experience for him. The project is a more-than-welcome change from the uncontrollable exhilaration of surveying thousands of miles of featureless grey pipeline at the breakneck speed of 0.5 knots.

MV Mermaid Sapphire Crew

Captain Stuart Buckle
Stuart Buckle has been at sea since he was 17 years old. He completed his officer cadetship with Shell working on oil and gas tankers. In 2000 he moved into the specialist dynamic positioning (DP) sector of the industry, working on pipe lay, well stimulation, subsea construction, and dive supportvVessels. In 2010 he obtained his masters unlimited certificate of competency. This allows him to captain any vessel, anywhere in the world. Stuart has been captain (or master as its also known) of the Mermaid Sapphire for just over a year. The captain is in charge of the ship and responsible for all the people on her at all times. With that power (and nice cabin) comes great responsibility. His priorities are always for the safety of his crew, the safety of his ship, and the protection of the environment. Stuart lives in Glasgow, Scotland, with his fiancée Juliana. They are getting married in her hometown of Rio de Janeiro in June.

Stuart Bowman, Chief Officer
Bowman is the chief officer onboard the Mermaid Sapphire. He has worked at sea for 20 years on a variety of ships, from dive boats to construction and ROV support vessels. Stuart has worked all over the world, and says, “My role onboard the ship is to look after the stability of the vessel (I try and keep the ship upright and afloat), also navigate the ship whilst at sea, and am also in charge of all operations on the working deck.” Stuart is second in command of the vessel. “My role in this project is to ensure that the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER is safely launched and recovered, whilst maneuvering the vessel during this period. I currently live in a small town called Barnsley in the U.K., where my wife Cass and three children live.”

Brian Conner, First Officer
Brian Conner graduated from South Tyneside College in June 2000. After serving on oil tankers, he moved into the offshore industry in 2004. The majority of his seatime has been spent in the North Sea on offshore supply and construction vessels. Originally from Newcastle, he now live in Spain with his wife Laurina and daughters Anna and Amy. On the Mermaid Sapphire Conner is responsible for the dynamic positioning of the vessel, and as safety officer, he is responsible for the maintenance of safety equipment and the implementation of safe working practices onboard.

Stephen Blow, Crane Operator, Launch and Recovery Team
Born in Cardiff, Wales, in 1959 and married to the lovely Kim, Stephen Blow has four sons, six grandchildren and a shih tsu. He is a passionate supporter of the Cardiff City Football Club and enjoys birdwatching and moderately long walks. He joined the Merchant Navy in 1978, serving as motorman, AB, and pumpman. He gained his crane operator’s certification and moved to the offshore industry seven years ago. He has the task of launching and recovering the submersible with the crane in partnership with the rest of the team operating various winches and tag lines. He found the job initially daunting due to the high profile of the project, but after many practice drills and much discussion, and with several successful dives under their belts, he now has great faith and confidence in the whole operation and the personnel involved.

Shore Support Team (Guam)

Melanie Chryssochoides, Project Executive
Project executive Melanie Chryssochoides was born in Bondi Beach, Sydney, and comes to the project with a varied background. Prior to her media career, Chryssochoides lived in southern California working with “youth at risk” through the Y and DARE programs—a hard but very rewarding role. With ten years in feature film production and a lifetime with two engineers in the family, Chryssochoides was well equipped to support her complex and demanding role in DEEPSEA CHALLENGE. A producer herself, Chryssochoides has her own film and television production company in Melbourne, which focuses on TV commercials and feature film development.

Michael Horvath, Logistics Specialist
As an aspiring film producer, Michael Horvath joined the film industry in 2006, after completing a diploma in film production at Sydney Film School. Since then, Horvath has worked in various production roles on over 21 feature and television projects around Australia, including such films as Paradise Lost, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Australia, Happy Feet 2, Tomorrow, When The War Began, and many more. Having joined DEEPSEA CHALLENGE at the end of 2011, Horvath provides the expedition with logistical support in personnel movement, coordinating travel, freight, and parts purchasing.

Sub Build Team (Sydney, Australia)

Dianna Bisset, Straps and Bridles
Dianna Bisset has been designing and making equipment using technical fabrics and webbing for the outdoor industry since the early 1980s. She now works for Wild Stuff/Tufftec in Australia as a specialist designer of harnesses for flying performers in theater and films, as well as for rescue, sport, and industrial applications. Spectacular events such as the opening ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics depended on Bisset’s harnesses for the myriad flying effects. For the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER Bisset designed and made the harness and tensioning straps for lifting, locating, and holding the sphere into the ISOFLOAT beam, the internal lifting slings and lift, launch, and towing bridles. This exciting challenge has been met by applying her experience and creativity as a designer and her intimate knowledge of textile performance and testing to the high loads and dynamic demands of the submersible’s operations.

Warwick Bisset, Engineer and Floor Manager
With a degree in manufacturing engineering, Australian Warwick Bisset’s early experience was in machining and tooling design, which led to the technical side of factory management. After 22 years with Clark Equipment, building 40-ton forklifts, the change to submersible manufacture was profound. He was introduced to the project by his partner Dianna Bisset, who had made the original sphere lifting slings early in 2009. Bisset’s role has been to manage the factory equipment and support the design effort in materials selection, stress analysis, manufacturing methods, and finding suppliers. He also helped to develop manufacture of the syntactic foam. The inspection, installation, and maintenance of the very high-pressure test vessels was a major responsibility, as was the specification and sourcing of all lifting equipment.

Phil Durbin, Sub Design Engineer
Managing director of Finite Elements Australia, Phil Durbin was the principal mechanical and structural engineering advisor to James Cameron, Ron Allum, and the Acheron team for six years. Durban’s three decades of design development experience is evident in nearly every aspect of the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER’s design and construction. He says, “This project has been as much an expedition to the frontiers of engineering as the journey to the trench itself.” One of Durban’s major achievements was co-inventing, with Allum, the primary material of construction, the ISOFLOAT#8482; syntactic foam. Another early project milestone saw Phil and his team design and test to full depth the sphere, acrylic view port, and hatches.

David Bleads, Mechanical Engineer
David Bleads is a mechanical engineer who began his working career as a toolmaker. He worked at UTS and Macquarie University assisting scientists with the mechanical development of several projects, including the early laser devices. Later he started a business in prototype engineering, where he worked on a range of projects, often for R&D and start-up companies, designing and making a diverse range of devices, from medical probes to sonar buoys. On the Acheron project, he was involved in the thruster collaboration with the electronics engineers; the high-pressure-resistant strobes; the sphere-hatch viewport mount for the Red Epic camera; the mounting systems and parts for the cameras inside and outside the sphere; the soft buoyancy system; the fiber-optic penetrator for the data cable from the sphere to the externals; and sample gathering equipment.

Robert Fuhrmann, Electromechanical Systems Engineer
Robert Fuhrmann is an experienced electromechanical systems engineer from the Pacific Northwest. Edge Innovations brought him onboard to assist the lower-pod team on the electrical system, science instrument, and mechanical integration. He has supported science at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, South Pole Station, and Institute of Ocean Sciences. Besides having a passion for building and fixing things, especially in the name of science, he enjoys wandering and climbing in the mountains.

Lynn Micheletti, Operations Manager and Quality Control
Having learned to dive at age 11, Lynn Micheletti became a diving instructor while studying at university. She graduated from UNSW with a bachelor’s degree in 1994. Diving led her to a career in the marine industry. During the past 18 years, she has skippered, crewed, and worked as a commercial diver on projects and films around Australia and overseas. Micheletti holds a master class 5, MED2, and commercial diving certification. She joined the Quest dive team in 1999 under the expedition leadership of Andrew Wight. She also held the position of divemaster on Paul Allen’s superyacht Octopus. She joined DEEPSEA CHALLENGE in June 2010 and continued Ron Allum’s work on the small-scale manufacture of full-ocean-depth syntactic foam. Working closely with contractors, Micheletti managed everything that involved the production and use of syntactic foam.

Neil McLennan, Contracts Manager
In June 2011 Neil McLennan joined the Acheron Project to provide the management framework while it was still in its conceptual stages, assisting Ron Allum with managing the company. Over the next two and a half years McLennan’s role was to find the staff, set up the information systems, develop the budget, lease and purchase materials for the sub, create patents and trademarks, and generate the legal framework for the organization. Additionally, McLennan managed the project while Allum solved the technical challenges. McLennan originally trained with Price Waterhouse in 1980 after leaving school, and he has a B.Com from UNSW. Previously McLennan was CFO/company secretary for Immune System Therapeutics Ltd. What distinguished this project was the complete digitization of the workflow from the design process using CAD to the Google Apps communication, SQL inventory management, and banking. This led to a centralization of information and facilitated sharing of information in the organization.

Stephen Davison, Electronics Engineer
Stephen Davison joined the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE build project for three months at a busy time for the electronics design team. He drafted PCBs for the thruster, power distribution system, and camera system. Irish born, Davison has had an eclectic career, studying at Cambridge University, researching optical fibers and mobile phone systems, designing optical/electronic communications products, learning Arabic and teaching engineering in Jordan, and doing a stint as a trainee patent attorney. Davison loves being an engineer at all stages, from research and modeling to fabrication and testing. He has now returned to communications electronics.

Anson Li, Design Engineering
Anson Li is an aeromechanical engineer and the third person to be employed by the Acheron Project. He was a part of the submersible build project from beginning to end. His role included handling all the design of the internal structures and exterior shape of the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER vehicle, which included the syntactic beam, battery modules, thruster modules, LED light modules, pilot sphere attachment, and all the exterior composite panels. Li was also a key member of the weight and balance team, working out the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER’s total volume, mass, buoyancy center, and dynamic center.

Film Team

Brad Major, Production Manager
Brad Major graduated from Murdoch University (Western Australia) in 2009 with a bachelor in media after originally studying law and international finance. During the years after graduation Major produced shows for Australian cable company FOXTEL under his own production company and also produced the very well received Ronan’s Escape. With a keen sense of how new technology shapes the film industry, Major set about immersing himself in 3-D filmmaking, leading to a series of seminars and workshops run from Perth by international experts, which led to the collaboration with Brett Popplewell on various projects, including the production of the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE film.



Science Partners

  • Additional major support provided by The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
  • NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego
  • University of Hawaii at Manoa
  • University of Guam