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Why James Cameron is arguing with a fellow millionaire about who dove to the deepest point in the ocean
In September, film director James Cameron contacted The New York Times, disgruntled by a declaration made by millionaire adventurer Victor Vescovo, that claimed he had completed the deepest submarine dive in history. Vescovo had dived down to the Mariana Trench, off the coast of Guam – the same area Cameron had dived down to seven years earlier. What irked Cameron was that the area is flat, according to what he and another expedition both saw, meaning it should have been impossible to go any deeper. Yet Vescovo was claiming he’d gone 52 feet deeper. Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories. Academy Award winning director James Cameron does not seem to like to be upstaged. In September, Cameron took issue when fellow millionaire adventurer Victor Vescovo declared he had completed the deepest submarine dive in history. The dive was down to a trough called Challenger Deep, which Cameron also dove down to seven years earlier. Cameron questioned Vescovo’s claim since he and earlier divers had found the area to be flat. He argued that this meant it should have been impossible to go any deeper. Yet Vescovo claimed he’d gone 52 feet further. What followed, as the two wealthy men disagreed via the headlines of international media companies, is a little unusual. Here’s what happened.This strange argument between two wealthy “gentleman explorers” began when Cameron emailed The New York Times with the subject “Request to Speak.”Foto: Director James Cameron in 2016.sourceGabe Ginsberg / WireImage / GettySources: The New York Times, VultureCameron is famous for directing box-office hits like “Titanic”, “The Terminator”, and “Avatar”. He’s also known for his environmental activism and deep sea diving.Foto: Director James Cameron attends the “Titanic 3D” world premiere at the Royal Albert Hall on March 27, 2012 in London, England.sourceJon Furniss / WireImage / GettySources: Popular Science, VultureCameron has made several films and documentaries about the sea, as well as regularly deep-sea diving himself. He’s plunged two miles down to visit the wreck of the Titanic 33 times.Foto: Director James Cameron attends the ‘Challenging The Deep’ Exhibition at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney, New South Wales.sourceJames Croucher / Newspix / GettySource: The New York TimesIn 2012, Cameron descended almost 7 miles in a mini-submarine to touch down on Challenger Deep. His aim was to take photos and find samples of deep sea fauna.Foto: The DEEPSEA CHALLENGER submersible is the centerpiece of DEEPSEA CHALLENGE, a joint scientific project by explorer and filmmaker James Cameron, the National Geographic Society and Rolex to conduct deep-ocean research.sourceMark Thiessen / National GeographicSources: Wired, The New York TimesChallenger Deep is a trough on the Mariana trench, which is the deepest part of the world’s oceans, located in the western Pacific off the coast of Guam.Foto: Mariana trench map.sourceWikimediaSource: The New York TimesCameron wasn’t the first to reach it. That was achieved in 1960, by Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard, two men in the US Navy. The pair spent 20 minutes down below, but couldn’t take any photos, as their submarine stirred up too much of the seafloor.Foto: Lieutenant Larry Shumaker, Jacques Piccard, Dr. Andres B. Rechnitzer and Lieutenant Don Walsh with Charles Dail.sourceBettmann / GettySources: The Guardian, The New York TimesWhen Cameron went, he spent three hours exploring the trough. He said he was struck by how lunar the landscape was.Foto: A submersible works at a depth of 7,062 metres on June 27, 2012 in the western Pacific Ocean.sourceVisual China Group / GettySources: Wired, The New York TimesAfter his success, The New York Times’ William J. Broad wrote that his dive signaled “the rising importance of entrepreneurs in the global race to advance science and technology.”Foto: Filmmaker 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.sourceMark Thiessen/National Geographic/HandoutSources: Wired, The New York TimesOne of those entrepreneurs, on the other side of this public feud, is multi-millionaire Victor Vescovo. The Guardian described him as “desperate to prove himself as the world’s ‘ultimate explorer'”Foto: Victor Vescovo.sourceMike Marsland / Getty for OmegaSource: The GuardianHe’s climbed the highest peak on every continent, including Everest, and skied over the North and South poles. But this might be the first time he’s had a disagreement make international headlines.Foto: Victor Vescovo on Mt Everest.sourceWikimediaSources: The New York Times, Insight EquityIn April 2019, Vescovo also successfully completed a dive to Challenger Deep.Foto: Victor Vescovo.sourceReeve Jolliffe / Five Deep ExpeditionSources: Wired, The New York TimesThe dive was part of a $48 million attempt to dive to the deepest point in five oceans, which he’s since completed.Foto: Limiting Factor.sourceFive Deeps ExpeditionSource: The New York TimesAfter the dive, Vescovo’s press release had the headline, “Deepest Submarine Dive in History.”Foto: Victor Vescovo in 2019.sourceWikimediaSources: Five Deeps, The New York TimesWhat set Cameron on fire is that Vescovo said he descended 35,853 feet, which is 52 feet deeper than Cameron went in 2012.Foto: Director James Cameron speaks onstage in 2010.sourceJeff Kravitz / FilmMagic / GettySource: Wired, The New York TimesBut Cameron said he couldn’t have gone deeper, because the bottom was “flat and featureless.” So even if Vescovo’s gauge was different from Cameron’s, the director said it wasn’t correct. “I question that result,” he told Wired. “I also question why nobody else has questioned that result.”Foto: Director James Cameron in 2018.sourceTommaso Boddi / Getty for AMCSources: Wired, The New York TimesCameron isn’t alone with this conclusion. The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution also explored the area in 2009.Foto: A Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution vessel.sourceSonya Senkowsky / APSources: The New York Times, Popular ScienceThe group sent down a robot, and Andy Bowen, who led the expedition, said it was like the Utah desert. He also said Vescovo’s claim of finding a deeper part was unlikely.Foto: A shot from Vescovo’s Five Deeps expedition.sourceFive Deeps ExpeditionSources: The New York Times, Popular ScienceVescovo responded to Cameron’s questions by saying he had better, newer equipment that gave more accurate readings of the ocean’s depth.Foto: The Limiting Factor submarine.sourceTamara Stubbs / Five Deeps ExpeditionSource: The New York Times“I have enormous respect for him,” Vescovo told The Times. “On this point, however, I scientifically disagree.”Foto: Victor Vescovo.sourceTamara Stubbs / Limiting FactorSource: The New York TimesIt’s difficult to say for certain who is right, because it’s hard to measure an exact depth. Strong ocean currents mean traditional measuring by a cable is impossible.Foto: Above the Mariana Trench.sourceFive Deeps ExpeditionInstead it’s done by sound or pressure, taking into account things like gravity. But even with the best technology, there will be a margin of error.Foto: Victor piloting Limiting Factor on bottom of Mariana Trench.sourceFive Deeps ExpeditionSource: WiredIn September, Vescovo’s figure was lowered by 13 feet, to 35,840 feet. This still has Vescovo as having gone deeper.Foto: Victor Vescovo on board of his ship ”Pressure Drop”sourceWikimediaSource: The New York TimesVescovo’s crew also estimated the margin of error for his dive could be up to 70 feet.Foto: Some of the crew on Vescovo’s expedition.sourceReeve Jolliffe / Five Deeps ExpeditionSource: The New York TimesVescovo said the difference of 50 feet was “splitting hairs” when the real focus should have been about the fact they’d both descended down over 35,000 feet. But that’s easy for Vescovo to say, when he’s the one who’s recorded going deeper.Foto: Victor Vescovo laughing as he prepares to dive in his submersible, the Limiting Factor.sourceWikimediaSource: WiredAnd it clearly matters to Cameron. He told Popular Science, “At the risk of sounding like sour grapes, it’s important for the public to know that the one deepest point in our world’s oceans is a flat, featureless plain.”Source: Popular ScienceRegardless of who went deeper, as Mark Zumberge, a geophysicist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, told Popular Science, the answer isn’t a big deal for everyone. “There’s not a great scientific interest in how the ocean floor varies in a few meters,” he said.Foto: Director James Cameron.sourceJames Croucher / Newspix / GettySources: The Guardian, Popular ScienceAnd both men agree that the most important thing to take from all of this is that the ocean’s depths are under-appreciated, and scientists need more funding to be able to properly study them.Foto: The Limiting Factor.sourceFive Deeps ExpeditionSource: WiredThe post Why James Cameron is arguing with a fellow millionaire about who dove to the deepest point in the ocean appeared first on Business Insider Nederland.
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