by Jesse Wright
On Monday, March 26, James Cameron journeyed into Challenger Deep, the deepest part of the Marianas Trench, for a whopping three hours.
The last time a manned expedition to these depths was done was back in 1960, when Jacques Piccard and U.S. Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh spent 20 minutes down there.
Part of me wonders why a second voyage took so long for mankind to plan. The technology to reach such depths was already created. Why did it take 52 years for someone (James Cameron, of all people!), to think “Hey, remember that one really deep part of the ocean? Let’s go there!” Maybe we were too distracted by space exploration?
The other part of me wonders how long before mankind has found everything worth finding. How long before the world holds no secrets from us anymore?
Think about it. How much of the earth have we already discovered and documented? There’s no swashbuckling through the jungle anymore, no indigenous tribes we haven’t made some sort of contact with. The little pieces of rainforest that haven’t been clear cut for timber or coffee/banana plantations we’ve already traipsed through. Well, not you and I, but somebody.
There are plenty of species (insects, mostly) still waiting to be discovered. But let’s be honest, that’s far less exciting than finding an island or being the first to climb a particular mountain.
The idea of a frontier, the allure of the unknown… it’s thrilling. Romantic, even.
It’s something our society lacks. There’s no drive to go adventuring anymore. On an individual scale, yes, but nothing like American frontiersmen heading out west en masse. There’s no maps with “here there be dragons”. With Google Earth, nothing is secret.
Space is, to unabashedly quote Star Trek, “the final frontier”. In a few years, Voyager 2 will exit our sun’s gravitational range and we will finally be able to get high quality photos of things beyond our solar system. Even then, the most a person could manage (unless they were okay with never ever seeing their family again) would be a trip to Mars. The rest of it will remain far beyond our reach.
I can’t help but wonder what James Cameron’s trip means for exploration in the years to come. In 2012 alone, there are three more expeditions to Challenger Deep planned by other people. How long before excursions to the bottom of the world like these become available to the general public?
Maybe some things should be left unexplored.