When James Cameron was about 14, he embarked on his first underwater mission. Well, not Cameron so much as his mouse. He put it in his homemade submersible and watched it sink to all of four or five feet into Chippawa Creek, in the Canadian suburbs of Niagara Falls. The mouse survived, so the missions got bigger and bolder. Last year, Cameron, 58, became the first-ever solo explorer to touch the bottom of the Pacific Ocean at the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench, the deepest surface on Earth. Since then, he has done something possibly more extraordinary: Earlier this week, he donated the submersible and all the related technology to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, a private research operation in Cape Cod, where he will also join its Board of Directors and a new robotics team.大约14岁时,詹姆斯·卡梅隆就展开了他的首次水下任务。当然,龙骨的不是卡梅隆,而是他的老鼠。


去年,58岁的卡梅隆沦为首个独自一人潜水器至太平洋马里亚纳海沟“挑战者深渊”底部的探险家。那里是世界海洋的深达。此后,他做到了一件有可能更为不同寻常的事情。三月底,他把这个深潜器和涉及技术都捐赠给了伍兹霍尔海洋研究所(Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)。

这个私人研究所坐落于科德角(Cape Cod),卡梅隆将重新加入该研究所的董事会和新的机器人研究团队。Camerons move is a rare one. While the frontiers of exploration have been carried out largely in the private sector over the past decade — Richard BransonsVirgin Atlantic, Elon Musks Space X, and the like — the machines and technologies involved are often billionaire playthings, shrouded in mystery and intellectual property rights. The moneyed moguls themselves have tended to be less than civic-minded with their toys. After Steve Fossett became the first person to circumnavigate the world by balloon, in 2002, he donated his capsule to the National Air Space Museum, where it has been on display since. He did not give it to meteorologists to dissect.卡梅隆此举很少闻。10年来,前沿探险主要由私营公司展开,例如理查德·布兰森的维珍航空(Virgin Atlantic)和埃伦·穆斯克的太空探寻技术公司(Space X),涉及的设备和技术经常是富豪们的玩物,戴着谜样和知识产权的面纱。

富豪们往往会把他们的玩具捐献给科研机构。2002年,斯蒂夫·福赛特沦为乘坐热气球环游世界的第一人。后来,他把这个热气球吊舱捐献给了美国航空航天博物馆(National Air Space Museum),仍然展览至今。他没把它转交气象学家去分解成剖析。

In prepping for his deep-sea dive, Cameron did a test run of sorts at the New Britain Trench, in the Solomon Islands of Papua New Guinea. He was amazed at how little scientific data there was on the trench. Were always talking about space, he said recently at a meeting of the Explorers Club in New York, and I loved sci-fi and I thought space was it too. But theres an alien world right here on Earth, in the oceans. Cameron drove home the point: We say weve been to the bottom of the ocean. But thats like parachuting into a cornfield in Nebraska at midnight, walking around for a few hours with a flashlight, and saying youve explored America. We need more.为了作好深海潜水器的打算,卡梅隆在巴布亚新几内亚的所罗门群岛新的不列颠海沟展开了海试。之前有关这条海沟的科学数据如此之少,令其他惊讶深感。“我们总是在辩论太空,”最近他在纽约探险者俱乐部(Explorers Club)的一次会议上说道。


但这样子是在午夜伞兵到内布拉斯加州的某块玉米地,拿着手电筒在四周围回头了几个小时,然后就说道早已探寻了美国。我们必须更加多信息。“Camerons submersible, the Deepsea Challenger, is valued at around $100 million, much of which Cameron paid for out-of-pocket. It is the kind of devotion to brand-new gadgetry that is virtually nonexistent in academic and publicly funded circles. By contrast, ALVIN, researchers go-to deep-sea submersible, was decommissioned for a refit in 2010 after five decades in the field. Its like adding a jet engine to a propeller fleet, said Andy Bowen, Woods Holes director of its National Deep Submergence Facility.卡梅隆的“深海挑战者”(Deepsea Challenger)号深潜器价值约1亿美元,其中很多都是卡梅隆出钱。

这就看起来致力于一种在学术圈子和公募圈子里完全不不存在的全新玩意儿。相比之下,科研人员的“阿尔文”(ALVIN)号深潜器在服役50年后,在2010年除役展开改建升级。“这就看起来把喷气发动机加装到螺旋桨飞机上,”伍兹霍尔海洋研究所的国家潜水器设备主管安迪·鲍文说。The Deepsea Challenger dove to approximately 10,900 meters; current standard-issue research equipment can only go to 6,500 or 7,000 meters, Bowen said. Itll help us transform from a Lewis Clark approach to one of holistic, constant observation, he added. Agreeing with Camerons cornfield quip, Bowen said, So much of what weve done has just been Sputnik stuff, showing off for that moment, for the bragging rights. But it didnt really yield good scientific data.鲍文认为,“深海挑战者”号潜水器了约10,900米,而目前的标准版科研深潜器不能潜水器6,500到7,000米。

鲍文说:“它将协助我们从Lewis Clark仔细观察方法过渡到全方位不间断的仔细观察。”他赞成卡梅隆的那个玉米地的比喻。

“我们做到的很多事情都是像前苏联第一颗人造卫星那种东西,只是为了一时间的荣耀和权利的鼓吹,并没确实带给简单的科学数据。”Bowen said that already he was planning on using some of the Deepsea Challengers technology on existing missions in coming weeks. But, he noted, how its going to help explore the ocean is really a work in progress at this point, to be frank. When federal scientists work with a submersible designed for human occupancy, such as the three-person ALVIN, it requires strict certification. Camerons device operated outside of that bureaucracy, meaning its uncertified technology. This is a prototype, said Susan Avery, the president of Woods Hole. It will take a lot of work to take it from what it is to what we want it to be, which is a practical workhorse.鲍文说,他想在今后几周里把“深海挑战者”号的部分技术用作现有任务。但他认为:“坦白地说道,目前我们还在研究,它究竟将如何协助我们探寻海洋。”如果美国联邦科学家要用于载人潜水器,例如可配备三人的“阿尔文”号,必须严苛的审核。



“还必须做到很多工作才能把目前的它变为我们想的它。这是个十分实际的累活。”Avery was quick to point out, though, that this kind of public-private partnership is the new normal. Its a wonderful opportunity. But there are also not many other opportunities.但艾弗里迅速就说道到了点子上:“这种公私合作早已沦为新的常态。这是个好机会。

但其他的机会并不是很多。”In the age when Americas space shuttles are all mothballed in museums while other nations boast of plans to head to the Moon or to Mars, Camerons ocean deal provides cold comfort. Even the mega-rich have needed help of their own; Fossetts capsule, Air Space dutifully notes, is officially called The Bud Light Spirit of Freedom.如今,美国的航天飞机全部都被报废到博物馆里,而其他国家也都在大张旗鼓地宣传自己奔向月球、奔向火星的计划。因此,卡梅伦在海洋探寻事业上的捐献并无法带给过于多恳求。就连这些超级富豪们自己都必须协助。

美国航空航天博物馆恰如其分地宣告,福赛特的吊舱早已被月命名为“权利精神兴起之光”(The Bud Light Spirit of Freedom)。