Tuesday, March 27, 2012

James Cameron and Point Nemo

You may have heard that the film director James Cameron has completed a solo voyage to the bottom of the Marianas Trench. You can see good video here. He dove more than six miles to get there and he talks about 'complete isolation from humanity'. He was down for less than half a day.
This got me thinking about a place known as Point Nemo. This is a very wet spot on the map in the South Pacific. It is the place that is furthest from any land. If someone dropped you off there and you were lucky enough to pick the right direction, you would have to swim for 1670 miles before you found a beach.
I first heard of this while reading about various round the world solo sailors. Especially in the early trips, they were further away from any fellow human than anyone in history. They were further away from the mass of humanity than anyone save the Apollo astronauts. Let that sink in for a moment.
All of this was in the time before global satellites and easy communication. Several of them sailed through there even though their radios had already failed. The winner of the first race, Robin Knox-Johnston, is a rather dramatic example. He anchored off of New Zealand and talked with a fisherman there. He then sailed east across the Pacific, all the way across. He rounded Cape Horn and considered sailing near the Falkland Islands to make contact, but decided against it. He sailed north across the equator without seeing any other boats. It wasn't until he was in the North Atlantic, some five months later, that he finally got close enough to someone else to talk to them.
Can you imagine going five months without speaking to any other person? Knox-Johnston was interviewed by a psychologist both before leaving and then when he returned home. After he returned the psychologist pronounced him 'distressingly normal'.
Isn't that a kick?

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