Film director James Cameron made the world’s first solo dive to the ocean’s deepest point – the Mariana Trench – in March this year.

Australian industrial design firm Design + Industry (D+I) was among the team to develop the craft that got him there, designing the cockpit of the vessel.

Deepsea Challenger, the submarine that plummeted Cameron a mind-boggling 10.8 kilometres underwater – a depth not reached by any human being since 1960 – was the result of over seven years of design and construction by a team of scientists and the National Geographic society to make a craft able to withstand the pressures of such extreme depths.

There were “numerous technical challenges [to] overcome by using lightweight hi-tech materials to configure and house the extensive equipment Cameron needed during his dive – including some space for a banana and muesli bar,” says Nathan Burke, D+I Project Manager, who headed up the high-profile project.

The Sydney and Melbourne based industrial design firm worked with Ron Allum’s team of the Acheron Project.

In order to simulate the cockpit layout, D+I designed, developed and built numerous mock-ups and prototypes.

The team worked closely with the filmmaker, tailoring the design to his specific requirements. With space inside the submarine being extremely limited, the layout of the cockpit had to be optimised to allow for maximum safety, minimal weight, ease of usability and comfort – considering Cameron, at 187 centimetres tall, would be crammed in there for up to 10 hours.

The extreme pressure of the ocean depth created specific challenges for the design team.

The entire cockpit had to shrink in size as it descended, then expand during ascent.

The Australian designers engineered the solutions to deal with the technical aspects, including fireproofing, condensation management and complex control assemblies.

Highly skilled Australian manufacturers were able to assemble the Deepsea Challenger in record time.

To view this incredible project and learn more about the technical aspects involved, watch the video. Or read about more leading-edge innovations in Curve.

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