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Defending the Lone Explorer

  • Geoff Rynex

It started with The Abyss. Then a little thing called Titanic. Then a slew of aquatic documentaries. And this past weekend, the ocean-obsessed life of James Cameron finally culminated when the man climbed into a submarine he helped design and set the world record for the deepest journey into the Earth by a single human being.

And as soon as he breached the surface, the haters were there to greet him. “We should have sent a robot,” they said. Our “expendable robot spawn will win every time,” they said. They’re cheaper, faster, stronger…

But they’re not human. They don’t know fear and they don’t know courage—so we’re calling shenanigans.

There’s a reason they don’t say “where no robot has gone before.”

No robot will ever become breathless at the first sight of the desolate, alien world on the unexplored ocean floor. No grainy photo taken by a rover will ever match the elation we’ll all feel when an astronaut finally sets a foot down on the Red Planet. We’re playing with the limits of human agency, and a footprint on a foreign planet means more by that score than a hundred hi-res photos.

Think for a moment about the moon landing. Neil Armstrong declaring between space breaths that it was a “giant leap for mankind.” Planting the flag in the lunar soil with his own two hands. It’s hard to imagine people huddled around their televisions all over the world, getting chills down their spines to a series of beeps and squeaks.

So we commend Mr. Cameron and his willingness to get his hands dirty for the good of us all. And just in case you’re still not impressed, here are five horrific ways Jim could have died.