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Ocean Science and Exploration Are Capitol Hill Focus for Explorer and Filmmaker James Cameron and WHOI President & Director Susan Avery

June 11, 2013

UPDATED 6/10/13 9 P.M.—Please note new locations for events at 9:30 & 12:30 p.m., new start time for Senate hearing (3 p.m.), and additional sponsor.

Washington, D.C. – Explorer and director James Cameron will be on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, June 11, with Dr. Susan Avery, president and director of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for a series of public events and a Senate hearing.

Central to their visit is the display of the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER, the only human-occupied vehicle currently able to access the deepest parts the ocean. Cameron developed the vehicle over seven years and used it in March 2012 to dive to the deepest spot in the ocean, Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench. One year later, Cameron donated the vehicle to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, as part of a newly established partnership to foster advancement of deep-ocean exploration.

The display of the sub on Capitol Hill is sponsored by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.),  Senate Ocean Caucus co-chairs Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and honorary co-chairs Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska),and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), and House Oceans Caucus co-chairs Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) and Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), who will lend their voices in support of Cameron and Avery’s message about the importance of investing in ocean research, observations, exploration and education.

“The DEEPSEA CHALLENGER and its pilot, James Cameron, are an inspiration for scientists and students who take on the unique challenge of ocean research and exploration,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.  “As I’ve learned from another great ocean explorer, Dr. Bob Ballard, we know less about our oceans than we do the far side of the moon.  We need better information about our oceans to protect the bounty they provide, and the bipartisan Senate Oceans Caucus will continue to champion ocean observation efforts.”

The events kick off with an opportunity for members, staff and media to “Meet the Sub,” from 9:30 a.m. – 10 a.m., which will be on display at the base of the Capitol at 1st NW, between Constitution Ave, and Peace Circle. Accompanied by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, James Cameron will be present to describe the development of the sub and his dive to the bottom of the ocean. Susan Avery will explain how the technological advances developed for DEEPSEA CHALLENGER can be utilized by the entire ocean science community.

“It’s so important to understand the ocean, especially now as the ocean is undergoing great change as a result of global warming, pollution, and other factors,” said Cameron. “We’re running a race to understand what is out there and down there even in the moment that it is changing.”

“Access to the deep ocean has never been easy, particularly because humans tend toward a landlocked perspective,” said Avery. “Yet the ocean is Earth’s most fundamental and life-sustaining feature. It touches us every day, whether we live along the East Coast, the Great Plains, or within reach of the Colorado River.  The only way we can learn about this vast yet crucial part of our planet is to submerge ourselves in it, whether literally, in human occupied submersibles, or virtually, with advanced robotics.”

Following this event there will be an in-depth briefing for congressional staff and media from 10:15 a.m. – noon at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room 138, where Avery and Cameron will discuss the future of deep-sea exploration and scientific discovery, the contributions of ocean science to the nation’s economic growth and national and international security, and the critical importance of inspiring young people toward careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

From 12:30 p.m. – 2 p.m., school kids, families and the general public will have an opportunity to see the sub up-close at theDEEPSEA CHALLENGER in DC” public outreach event. (Key remarks will be made from 1 – 1:30 p.m.) The sub will be displayed on the north side of Pennsylvania Avenue across from the Woodrow Wilson Plaza between 12th and 13th Streets,.

“I want the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER to inspire kids to imagine themselves exploring the unknown,” said Cameron. “As the next generation of scientists, engineers, teachers, business owners, and political leaders, their enthusiasm for exploration, for taking risks, solving problems, and pursuing knowledge is vital to the country and to the world.”

Finally, at 3:00 p.m. Cameron and Avery will participate in a panel of experts testifying at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on “Innovative Partnerships in Ocean Observation” in Senate Russell Office Building room 253. Their testimonies will highlight the need for continued federal investment in research and the achievements that are possible when publicly funded research is leveraged by investment by private individuals and organizations.  They will also stress the need to encourage science-focused imagination among today’s youth.

“For thousands of years, people have been drawn to the awe-inspiring power of the ocean,” said Senator Roger Wicker, Honorary Co-Chair of the Senate Oceans Caucus. “Through the work of both explorers and scientists, we have been able to gain valuable insight regarding the true importance of the oceans. However, we have much more to learn. It is critical that we continue to explore the world’s final frontier. I hope tomorrow’s hearing will enable us to find new ways to work together to achieve that goal.”

“The ocean plays a critical role in some of the toughest issues facing our nation and the planet,” said Avery. “We can improve our capacity to predict how the weather, climate and ocean will change and how we sustainably use ocean resources, but we need more and better observations over larger areas and greater time. We’re working to improve our ability to gain those observations by building on our federally-funded research with private partnerships, but continued government support cannot be replaced.”

WHOI recently created a new Center for Marine Robotics, which aims to spur collaborations across government, industry and academia to advance ocean science and exploration through the development of new robotic vehicles and technologies. James Cameron has agreed to serve on the Center’s Advisory Board.

Washington, D.C., is the penultimate stop in a cross-country journey transporting DEEPSEA CHALLENGER to its new home in Woods Hole, Mass. The journey began with the first public display of the sub at the California Science Center in Los Angeles on June 1; from there it traveled to the Perot Museum in Dallas and the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, where students and families turned out to see the sub up close and hear from its engineers about its technological advances and capabilities. The crowds also heard from Dr. Dave Gallo, a geologist and special projects director at WHOI who has made many submersible dives exploring deep ocean terrain, and Anthony Tarantino, a WHOI engineer and a former pilot of the submersible Alvin, the nation’s deepest diving research submarine.  The cross-country tour is sponsored by Rolex.


The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a private, non-profit organization on Cape Cod, Mass., dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. WHOI builds and operates the deep-sea exploration vehicles of the National Deep Submergence Facility (NDSF) for the benefit of the entire US oceanographic community. The NDSF includes the human occupied vehicle Alvin, the remotely operated vehicle Jason, and the autonomous vehicle Sentry. Established in 1930 on a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences, its primary mission is to understand the oceans and their interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate a basic understanding of the oceans’ role in the changing global environment. For more information, please visit


Leading brand of the Swiss watch industry, Rolex, headquartered in Geneva, enjoys an unrivaled reputation for quality and expertise the world over. Its OYSTER watches, all certified as chronometers for their precision, are symbols of excellence, performance and prestige. Pioneer in the development of the wristwatch as early as 1905, the brand is at the origin of numerous major watchmaking innovations, such as the OYSTER, the first waterproof wristwatch, launched in 1926, and the PERPETUAL rotor self-winding mechanism introduced in 1931. Rolex has registered over 400 patents in the course of its history. A truly integrated manufacturing company, Rolex designs, develops and produces in-house all the essential components of its watches, from the casting of the gold alloys to the machining, crafting, assembly and finishing of the movement, case, dial and bracelet. Rolex is also actively involved in supporting the arts, exploration, sports, the spirit of enterprise, and the environment through a broad palette of sponsoring activities as well as philanthropic and patronage programs.


James Cameron

On March 26, 2012, Cameron became the only individual ever to travel to the Challenger Deep in a solo vehicle and the first person since 1960 to reach the very bottom of the world in a manned submersible. The dive was part of DEEPSEA CHALLENGE, a scientific expedition led by Cameron in partnership with National Geographic and Rolex to conduct deep-ocean research and exploration. During the dive, which obtained a depth of 35,787 feet in the Mariana Trench, Cameron conducted the first manned scientific exploration of the “Challenger Deep” in the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER submersible he spent seven years co-designing and building.

Over the course of the submersible design process, Cameron and his team spearheaded engineering breakthroughs in full-ocean-depth lighting, hydraulics, sampling tools, and now-patented syntactic foam. Of notable accomplishment was the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER’s ability to remain at the bottom of the Challenger Deep, explore, sample and film for nearly 3 hours. Data from the sub was integrated with 19 free-falling lander deployments. The two full-ocean depth science platforms captured video footage of unprecedented clarity, collected sediment, physical oceanographic data, water samples and biological samples throughout the expedition. These samples and images have led to scientific discoveries about the virtually unknown habitats of the New Britain Trench, Challenger Deep, and Sirena Deep, including numerous new species.

DEEPSEA CHALLENGE marked a globally recognized milestone in an exploration and diving career that has spanned decades. An avid scuba diver since 1969, Cameron has logged more than 3,000 hours underwater, including 500 hours in helmets. Seeking to combine his two great passions—diving and filmmaking—Cameron has directed numerous feature films and documentaries that have broken new ground in underwater cinematography, beginning with The Abyss in 1989.  In 1995, he made 12 manned-submersible dives to the Titanic wreck for his feature film of the same name, which won 11 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, and broke the record for global box office. Titanic’s earnings have only been surpassed by Cameron’s 2009 film, Avatar, which garnered an unprecedented 2.8 billion dollars worldwide.

Cameron’s technical contributions to the field of deep-sea engineering are matched by his contributions to deep-sea documentation. In 1999 he developed a digital 3-D camera system with engineering partner Vince Pace. Additionally, he developed revolutionary fiber-optic-spooling mini-ROV’s and, in 2001, piloted them deep inside the Titanic wreck to reveal well-preserved architectural elegance. In May 2002, Cameron piloted his robotic cameras inside the wreck of the DKM Bismarck, at a depth of 16,000 feet, for the documentary Expedition Bismarck. He has continued to evolve and improve upon these innovations for subsequent underwater documentaries including Ghosts of the Abyss in 2003, Aliens of the Deep in 2005 and the forthcoming DEEPSEA CHALLENGE documentary about his expedition to the Mariana Trench.

In all, Cameron has made 85 submersible dives, most of them to depths greater than two miles, is a veteran of eight oceanographic expeditions, and is a member of the Deep Submersible Pilots Association. An activist for indigenous rights, ocean conservation, and for the control of greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation, he founded and funds the Avatar Alliance Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to work on these critical causes.