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James Cameron & Paul Allen on Vacation
04/22/2012, Mariana Trench

What do mega-rich men do for fun? Well, James Cameron builds a submarine and takes it to the bottom of the Mariana Trench while Paul Allen hangs-out at the surface on his mega yacht "Octopus" and tweets the dive status.

Seriously...I'm not kidding!

Deepsea Challenger was secretly built in Australia, in partnership with the National Geographic Society and with support from Rolex, in the Deepsea Challenge program. The construction of the submersible was headed by Australian engineer Ron Allum. Many of the submersible developer team members hail from Sydney's cave diving fraternity including Ron himself with many years cave diving experience.

Mr Allum working in a small engineering workshop in Lilyfield Sydney Australia, created new materials including a specialised buoyancy syntactic foam capable of withstanding the huge compressive forces at 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) depths. The new foam is unique in that it possesses a strength close to that of steel yet, with a specific density of about 0.7, will float in water. The foam is composed of very small hollow glass spheres suspended in an epoxy resin and comprises about 70% of the submarine's volume.

The foam's strength enabled the Deepsea Challenger design to incorporate thruster motors as part of the infrastructure mounted within the foam but without the aid of a steel skeleton to mount various mechanisms. The foam supersedes petrol filled tanks for floatation as used in the historic submarine, Bathyscaphe Trieste.

Mr Allum also built many new innovations necessary to overcome the limitations of existing products. Examples being the light emitting diode lighting arrays, new types of cameras and fast reliable penetration communications cables allowing transmissions through the hull of the submersible. Mr Allum gained much of his experience developing the electronic communication used in Cameron's Titanic dives in filming Ghosts of the Abyss, Bismark and others.

Power systems for the submarine were supplied by lithium batteries that were housed within the foam and can be clearly seen in publicity photographs of the vessel. The lithium battery charging systems were created and designed by the Australian Lilyfield team. Part of the Lilyfield team of Australian software engineers created and designed the communication system within the submarine using Programmable Logic Controllers.

The crucial structural elements, such as the backbone and pilot sphere that carried Cameron, were engineered by the Tasmanian company Finite Elements.

The submersible features a pilot sphere measuring 1.1 m (43 in) diameter, large enough for only one occupant. The sphere, with steel walls 64 mm (2.5 in) thick, was tested for its ability to withstand the required 114 MPa (16,500 psi) of pressure in a pressure chamber at Pennsylvania State University. The sphere sits at the base of the 11.8 tonnes (13.0 short tons) vehicle. The vehicle operates in a vertical attitude, and carries 500 kg (1,100 lb) of ballast weight that allows it to both sink to the bottom, and when released, rise to the surface. If the ballast weight release system fails, stranding the craft on the seafloor, a backup galvanic release is designed to corrode in salt water in a set period of time, allowing the sub to automatically surface. Deepsea Challenger is less than one-tenth the weight of its predecessor of fifty years, the Bathyscaphe Trieste; the modern vehicle also carries dramatically more scientific equipment than Trieste, and is capable of more rapid ascent and descent.

In late January 2012, to test systems, Cameron spent three hours in the submersible while submerged just below the surface in Australia's Sydney Naval Yard.[15] On February 21, 2012, a test dive intended to reach a depth of over 1,000 m (3,300 ft) was aborted after only an hour because of problems with cameras and life support systems.[16] On February 23, 2012, just off New Britain Island, Cameron successfully took the submersible to the ocean floor at 991 m (3,251 ft), where it made a rendezvous with a yellow remote operated vehicle operated from a ship above.[17] On February 28, 2012, during a seven-hour dive, Cameron spent six hours in the submersible at a depth of 3,700 m (12,100 ft). Power system fluctuations and unexpected currents presented unexpected challenges.

On March 4, 2012, a record-setting dive to more than 7,260 m (23,820 ft) stopped short of the bottom of the New Britain Trench when problems with the vertical thrusters led Cameron to return to the surface.[20] Days later, with the technical problem solved, Cameron successfully took the submersible to the bottom of the New Britain Trench, reaching a maximum depth of 8,221 m (26,972 ft).[20] There, he found a wide plain of loose sediment, anemones, jellyfish and varying habitats where the plain met the walls of the canyon.

On March 18, 2012, after leaving the testing area in the relatively calm Solomon Sea, the submersible was aboard the surface vessel Mermaid Sapphire, docked in Apra Harbor, Guam, undergoing repairs and upgrades, and waiting for a calm enough ocean to carry out the dive. By March 24, 2012, having left port in Guam days earlier, the submersible was aboard one of two surface vessels that had departed the Ulithi atoll for the Challenger Deep.

On March 26, 2012 local time it was reported that it had reached the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

James Cameron's Deepsea Challenger's descent and ascent during this record setting dive started on March 25 and ended on March 26, but if Guam times are used the entire dive occurred on March 26, 2012. Paul Allen reported the dive status via tweets during the time when he was monitoring the progress of the dive from his yacht, Octopus.

Descent, from the beginning of the dive to arrival at the seafloor, took two hours and 37 minutes - almost twice as fast as the descent of Trieste. A Rolex watch, "worn" on the sub's robotic arm, continued to function normally throughout the dive. Not all systems functioned as planned on the record-breaking dive: bait-carrying landers were not dropped in advance of the dive because the sonar needed to find them on the ocean floor was not working, and hydraulic system problems hampered the use of sampling equipment. Nevertheless, after roughly three hours on the seafloor and a successful ascent, further exploration of the Challenger Deep with the unique sub is planned for later in the Spring of 2012.

DeepSea Challenger

The epoxy submarine...designed to withstand 16,000 psi at the bottom of the Mariana Trench 35,756 feet deep.

Missing Mexico Syndrome

Missing Mexico Syndrome

It seems that every cruiser we meet here in the South Pacific that originated from Mexico has fallen ill to the deadly effects of the Missing Mexico Syndrome. It starts with the inability to have a conversation without somehow ending-up talking about Mexico and the good times in PV and Mazatlan...then cheap beer, great food and wonderful boat help.

Here's to Missing Mexico Syndrome!

Picture is of the Light House in Mazatlan at sunset in the Old Harbor.

The Koala Life
11/21/2011, Lone Pine Koala Santuary, Brisbane

This is what Lori was waiting for the entire way across the hold a Koala.

The Koala is proof that if you are going to be a lazy bum, you better be cute and cuddly. These guys sleep 19 hours of the day. They wake at sunrise for 2 hours and sunset for 3 hours...whata gig!

The koala is a cute, round ball of fluff with sharp claws and a big nose. This popular marsupial is Australia's premier icon. Despite the misconception that they live all over Australia, they are only found in small fragmented habitats on the eastern coast of Australia. This habitat fragmentation is due to land clearing for cattle, crop production and housing.

This guy was so funny while he was sleeping he was dreaming and flinching his little paws and almost falling from his branch. He would do this flinch move every few minutes but not wake-up. Also notice that Koala's have three fingers and two thumbs...technically making them more advanced than humans.

Although there is only one species koala, koalas can look quite different depending on the climate they live in. Southern koalas (found in South Australia and Victoria) have are larger, fluffier and darker fur than Northern koalas (found in New South Wales and Queensland) due to the cooler climate they live in.

The word koala is aboriginal for "no drink" This name came about because koalas hardly ever climb down to the ground for water as they obtain most of it from the eucalypt leaves that they eat.

When European explorers first saw these strange hopping animals they asked a native Australian (aborigine) what they were called. He replied "kangaroo" meaning "I don't understand" your question. The explorers thought this was the animal's name. And that's how the kangaroo got its name.

Kangaroos and their relatives come from the family Macropodidae. This family is split into two subfamilies; Sthenurinae which is represented by a sole member, the Banded Hare-wallaby, and Macropodinae which is represented by five groups including kangaroos, wallabies, wallaroos, rock-wallabies, pademelons, quokkas, tree-kangroos, hare-wallabies and forest wallabies. The term 'macropod' (meaning 'large-footed') is often used to describe members of this family.

They all have powerful legs that act like springs, big feet to help them hop and a long tail to help them balance. The larger kangaroo species can jump up to 3m high (10 feet) and 9m (30 feet) long with one bounce and hop as fast as 70 km/hr (44 mph).

The emu is the world's second largest bird and can run up to 50km/hour. They feed on leaves, grasses, seeds, insects and fruit. The female lays 6 to12 dark green eggs. The male then incubates them and raises the chicks.

Emus are found in most habitats throughout mainland Australia. However, they are no longer found in closely settled areas.

The southern cassowary is an endangered species with an estimated population of 1,500. They are the third largest flightless bird and choose to live solitary lives. Cassowaries live in the rainforest and feed on fruits, insects and small reptiles. They create a powerful presence with their horny helmet and talon-like claws that can grow to up to 12cm long!

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