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Design + Industry looks back at designing James Cameron's 'Deepsea Challenger'

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James Cameron's solo dive to the Mariana Trench was made possible by the team behind the Deepsea Challenger, a 12-ton submersible that was partially designed by Design + Industry.

Deepsea Challenger cockpit testing 640
Deepsea Challenger cockpit testing 640

Film director James Cameron made the world's first solo dive to the depths of the Mariana Trench last weekend, and he's received top billing both for making the journey as well as for helping design the Deepsea Challenger craft that got him there. One of the other parties behind the vehicle's creation is industrial design firm Design + Industry, who helped craft the cockpit interior of the 12-ton submersible. Consisting of a spherical chamber, the design underwent multiple mock-up and prototype iterations to arrive upon a combination that worked for Cameron, providing him enough room to control the vehicle while also leaving room for "a banana and muesli bar." The cockpit itself had to shrink when Cameron reached the ocean's floor, with the submersible itself contracting up to three inches under the tremendous pressure. The Challenger, which travels upright when underwater — "like a seahorse," says Cameron — also featured an eight-foot panel of lights to illuminate the ocean floor and a series of weights that could be jettisoned as a failsafe safety feature should anything go awry. For even more details on the nuances of the vehicle, be sure to check out the video below.