SOCIAL STUDIES Getting Deep Jill Kushner

Last week, James Cameron took a seven mile journey to the deepest part of the ocean in a tiny capsule, whose size many would compare to a single Advil Cold & Sinus capsule. Cameron made this trip solo. Only two other people have ever been to this depth and they were together. Because they were BFFs. Or maybe it was for another reason. But it was probably because they were BFFs.  James Cameron, aka “Uncle Titanic”, didn’t want a plus one. For the record, I always want a plus one. Also for the record, that was probably the first time anyone called him “Uncle Titantic”.

A special “vertical torpedo” called the Deepsea Challenger was built for the journey. It’s not just its size, or lack thereof, that makes me nervous. The thing looks like it was a party favor from The Kids Choice Awards. It took Cameron about two and a half hours to get to the bottom of the ocean and he spent three hours down there exploring. That’s 23 minutes longer than the running time of Titanic. There’s a chance he explored for 23 minutes and spent the other three hours watching his own movie about a ship that sank to the bottom of the ocean… while he was at the bottom of the ocean. I would totally do that.

Cameron said he didn’t really see any fish or living creatures while he was down there, just some small, shrimp-like bottomfeeders. Girl, you know we all know some of those kinds up here on land. His plan had been to stay down there longer than he did, but his custom-designed submarine had a hydraulic fluid leak. I can’t think of a time when the word ‘leak’ is ever positive. It’s taken to new levels of not being a good thing when a leak happens while you’re at the bottom of the ocean. But that’s just one girl’s opinion who has no real professional knowledge of leaks or ocean bottoms, but definitely dabbles in things not being good in general.  James didn’t seem that concerned about the malfunctioning hydraulics, even when he had to ascend to the surface way earlier and way faster than expected.

Yikes. You really do not want that sub to get a crack while it’s down there. Supposedly, the pressure at the bottom of the ocean has been described as if three SUVs were sitting on your toe. I know what you’re thinking. Three Hummers would be way worse. And you’re right. But three SUVs are still a little much to have sitting on your toe. His trip back up to the surface was super accelerated and took 0 minutes. He described it as a “heckuva ride”. I wonder what scares James Cameron. Likely, just bad box office numbers. When asked what it looked like down there, he described it as very lunar. Which is so wild and perfectly ironic, being that you can’t get much more opposite of the moon than the floor of the ocean. Although, to be fair, I describe lots of things as very lunar. For instance, if you look at Target from the right angle, very lunar. And on occasions, when I’m really good with my moisturizing routine, I like to tell myself my complexion is very lunar.

James Cameron isn’t the only one plunging into depths beyond many people’s imagination. In addition to setting his sights on the ocean and space (Virgin Oceanic and Virgin Galactic, respectively), Richard Branson has announced his latest venture – Virgin Volcanic. Virgin Volcanic will charter trips into active volcanoes. This has never been done before. Surprised that it hasn’t been done before? Me neither. Because that’s crazy. I’m nearly certain that I’ve never said to anyone, “Do you guys think there’s some kind of car or ship that I can drive into the heart of a volcano while it’s doing it’s whole fire/lava thing?” Branson himself will take part in the first Virgin Volcanic dive, but we’ll have to wait a bit, as it’s not scheduled until 2015.

If you’re wondering what other scientist-types will be joining him on the maiden voyage, that’d be: Tom Hanks, will.i.am, Seth Green and Barbara Kopple. Kopple is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and she’ll be producing a documentary about the journey using brand new 3D technology called “VD.” If I was in the room when the tech people came up with that name, I’d be like, “Maybe we call it something else?” When asked about his long-term goals, beyond the science of being inside an active volcano, Branson said that the hope is develop a safe alternative to transcontinental commercial aviation. So, he’s pitching traveling through earth instead of around it. That is definitely a very very cool concept. And it worked really well when folks were trying to reach platform 9 3/4. I’m 100% game for cutting down on travel times. I just wish it didn’t entail taking a short cut through moving tectonic plates and spewing lava. But I’ve been known to over think things. Branson does have scientific goals as well and hopes to use these upcoming ventures to gather research that will help monitor and control active volcanoes. I have to tell you, there’s something very sexy about Richard Branson. I’ve had a crush on him for sometime. He seems, like James Cameron, to have no fear. He also has his own private island. It’s hard to keep track of all of the people who have their own private island. Even though I can only think of Branson.

I like being around people, or imagining being around people, who have no fear. It takes my level of fear, which is normally at ‘Mock A Lot’, down to a much more comfortable level of ‘I’m Just Nervous’. I’m excited to watch how Cameron and Branson’s adventures continue to play out. Oh, and remember, if anyone reaches out looking to record with will.i.am in 2015 and you get his voicemail –leave a message because he might or might not be inside of a volcano.

Chalkboard image via ShutterStock

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  1. Haha…I love your articles. Also, Richard Branson is a god.

  2. I am perfectly satisfied just taking an airplane to the places I want to go. Even if it takes a bit longer to get there. I don’t need to journey to the center of anything…seriously, I’d find Brendan Fraser there, and then I wouldn’t really know what to do with him. I was just trying to get to LA from Portland.