Deepsea Challenge - 10 years later

Posted by Ben Orchard on Mar 25, 2022 7:00:00 AM

This month marks the 10-year anniversary of James Cameron's historic dive to the Mariana Trench with the help of Opto 22 controls.

About this time 10 years ago, I got two emails about an hour apart. The first was from my wife saying my 16-year old son had fallen off his skateboard and taken a chunk out of his elbow. The second was from my son himself, asking if he could go back and find the missing bit rather than go to hospital to get stitches.

Today, we all have a bit of a laugh about it when we recall the story. But at the time, it was pretty stressful for each of us, mostly because I was away from home half way around the world.

In fact, I was a thousand miles out at sea working with the team that was preparing the Deepsea Challenge submersible that would end up taking movie director and deep ocean explorer James Cameron to the deepest point on the planet - the Mariana Trench.

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Topics: Case studies, Videos, Deepsea Challenge

Adventures of an Applications Engineer - Part 1

Posted by Mary St. John on Aug 4, 2017 1:31:13 PM

As an applications engineer, sometimes known as OptoMary on our OptoForums, perhaps I shouldn’t have favorite customers. They’re all my favorites!

Sure, our products and people have helped build flashy Vegas shows, huge amusement parks, and various NASA endeavors that we may or may not be allowed to discuss in detail. We also have the less flashy water/wastewater installations and beloved "dam customers" that can be pretty Coulee, too.

In these Adventures of an Applications Engineer posts I'll share some of my favorite favorites. 

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Topics: Deepsea Challenge, PACs, I/O, PAC Project, Modbus

OptoNews: New video - Diving deep with James Cameron

Posted by Jean Femia on Feb 17, 2016 4:04:32 PM

In 2012, explorer and filmmaker James Cameron did what no one had ever done before. 

He piloted a one-man submersible to Challenger Deep at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the lowest spot on earth, 6.8 miles (10.9 km) below sea level.

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Topics: Videos, optonews, Deepsea Challenge, PACs, PAC Project, OptoNews 2016-02-17

Deepsea Challenger - Part 5

Posted by Ben Orchard on Apr 8, 2015 6:00:00 AM

A typical day:

A typical day started arround 6 a.m. Getting up and getting into the mess to grab some breakfast and coffee, lots and lots of coffee.

Incidently, the food on the ship was fantastic. We had a young European cook who listened to one of my favorite DJs, Armin Van Buuran, while he was cooking... very cool.

Every morning at the factory and in the bridge on the ship, we had a team meeting at 7 a.m., usually around half an hour in duration. We each reported on the status of the system(s) we were managing. Mostly we were reporting if we were "go for launch," and if not, why not, was any other system holding our system up and how long would it take to get it ready.

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Topics: Deepsea Challenge

Deepsea Challenger - Part 4

Posted by Ben Orchard on Mar 31, 2015 6:00:00 AM

After 7 years of planning and 3-4 months of frantic building, moving the submersible from the factory to the ship was a big deal.

We are engineers; we could have each spent another 6 months working on our parts of the system, but Jim was on a schedule and perfection would just have to take a back seat to safe and functional.

So there we were. In the wee hours of the morning, in a light rain, watching the crane very carefully lift our sub Deepsea Challenger onto the back of a flatbed truck.

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Topics: Deepsea Challenge

Deepsea Challenger - Part 3

Posted by Ben Orchard on Mar 24, 2015 6:00:00 AM

Visual Data Overload

One of my many jobs during those first few weeks at the factory was to review the graphics used on the pilot's touchscreen interface.

Put simply, I was asked by Jim to "fix them."

To be fair, the lead programmer had a LOT on his plate at the time. Each of the 180 or so devices had to be tested and re-tested for its performance and its interaction with the rest of the control network on the submarine... Time to make the display "pretty" was just not something any of the team members had.

(Also keep in mind Jim is a movie director as well as deep sea explorer. The "look" of a control panel is an important aspect in his mind's eye).

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Topics: Deepsea Challenge

OptoNews: Behind the scenes with James Cameron's Deepsea Challenger

Posted by Jean Femia on Mar 18, 2015 4:31:00 PM

A new series of blog posts by Opto 22 Application Engineer Ben Orchard gives you a front-row seat.

Remember filmmaker and explorer James Cameron's dive to the deepest part of the ocean, the Mariana Trench, just three years ago? 

Ben spent 4 months with the Deepsea Challenger team, in Australia, Guam, and at the Trench.

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Topics: Insider, optonews, Deepsea Challenge, OptoNews 2015-03-18

Deepsea Challenger - Part 2

Posted by Ben Orchard on Mar 17, 2015 6:00:00 AM

Faster. Ever faster.

There are around 180 devices on the submarine that the Opto hardware needed to communicate with.

Since every signal could not have its own physical wire, all the devices used a serial protocol. Each device had an address and a set of registers that could take commands or report their status back to the control program.

The interior of the pilot sphere remained at atmospheric pressure (around 14 psi), so there was no decompression requirement for the pilot. The outside of the sphere however took the full brunt of the mass of all the water above it. At the Mariana Trench, that was around 16,000 psi.

Serial data, power, and video camera feeds went in and out of the sub via very (very) special connectors called penetrator ports, electrical and fiber optic cables that had been cast in glass.

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Topics: Deepsea Challenge

Deepsea Challenger - Part 1

Posted by Ben Orchard on Mar 11, 2015 6:00:00 AM

Challenger Deep:

On the 25th of March, 2015, it will be the third anniversary of filmmaker and explorer James Cameron's record-breaking solo dive on the Mariana Trench, only the third man in history to visit the deepest point on Planet Earth.

Perhaps you have already seen the movie, "James Cameron's Deepsea Challenger 3D". (Go figure - I took time off work and saw the opening session at a local theater). If not, you can pick up a copy from Amazon or iTunes.

Quick tease, follow this blog for a chance to win the movie or a special t-shirt.

As in past years, around this time my mind frequently goes back to the role that I and the entire team at Opto 22 played in helping put Jim in the pilot's seat of this amazing submarine Deepsea Challenger.

Join me in this and the next few blogs, as I touch on some of the highlights that stick in my mind of this epic adventure.

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Topics: Deepsea Challenge

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