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James Cameron Given Scripps Prize For Deep Sea Exploration

Evening Edition

Aired 5/30/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.

GUEST

Dr. Doug Bartlett is a marine microbiologist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the chief scientist of James Cameron's Deepsea Challenge expedition...

Transcript

One of the world's most famous movie directors is being honored this week at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

But James Cameron, director of Avatar and Titanic, is not getting another award for his films. He'll be honored for his contributions to science in the public interest.

Last year, Cameron headed the DeepSea Challenge expedition. Scripps Institution of Oceanography Marine Microbiologist Doug Bartlett was chief scientist for the expedition.

Bartlett says the goal of the DeepSea Challenge was to develop a manned submersible that could go to the deepest ocean depth -- the Mariana Trench is 11 kilometers at it's deepest point -- and be used repeatedly for scientific purposes.

He says the hours of video taken during the mission reveals new kinds of life forms including new species of sea cucumbers that scientist haven't seen before.

Bartlett says, "the challenger deep by contrast was this alien-like environment, very foreboding, gray, green silky sediment with very little to see."

He says one the organisms collected by the lander, an instrument dropped into the ocean from the ship to collect samples and images, is an amphipod that has an organic molecule in it called scyllo-inositol.

"That's actually a drug that is being used to treat Alzheimer's today. And that was really unexpected to find that in some of the deepest parts of the ocean. So that's a benefit," Bartlett says

Cameron says he will donate the $25,000 in prize money given with the Nierenberg Prize back to Scripps. That will enable the institution to establish a lander lab and continue deep sea exploration.

Bartlett says, "We'll learn more about adaptations, biochemistry, different ways of getting energy, how carbon gets sequestered in deep ocean places, the impact of man even in these environments and things like that. So from climate change studies to ocean circulation to understanding sound propagation at great depth and its influence on life. There's just so much to learn.'

Video

Long Way Down: Mariana Trench

Above: Long Way Down offers a glimpse of the voyage director James Cameron took last year into the Mariana Trench. Scripps Institution of Oceanography marine microbiologist, Doug Bartlett was chief scientist on the deepsea expedition.

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