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James Cameron: Challenging the Deep - Review

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by Jade Jackson (subscribe)
Poet, Podcaster & Photographer with travel agent, airline, cruise ship, flight attendant, tour guide, and teaching airfares background. Read my travel articles and book cheap flights >> www.jadejackson.com.au/cheap-flights-to-china/
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Filmmaker, Explorer and Visionary
Titanic, James Cameron Exhibition Sydney, Explorer, Jade Jackson Photography
A replica model of the Titanic as seen on the Atlantic Ocean floor. Image by Jade Jackson.


James Cameron's immersive exhibition, currently on at the Australian Maritime Museum, offers a behind the scenes look into his expedition to the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

It showcases his journey from an inquisitive kid, with a love of the ocean to a groundbreaking filmmaker and real-life explorer.

Some may know him simply as the producer of the most profitable movies ever, including Avatar, Titanic, and Terminator 2, however in the process, he has pioneered new technologies in order to make those movies happen, all of which are detailed in the exhibition.

Before making the 1997 blockbuster, Titanic it was a team led by James Cameron, that actually found the final resting place of the Titanic and so the footage used in the movie of the wreck, was of the original ship.

It was through this footage that scientists were able to more accurately put together a simulation of the Titanic's last moments and to ensure accuracy of internal features used in the movie.

James Cameron, CHallenger Deep Exhibition Sydney, Image by Jade Jackson. Artwork, sketching, Sydney Maritime Museum
An original artwork by James Cameron, seen in the exhition. Image by Jade Jackson.


During the filming of The Abyss, it was James Cameron who created the design and thus pioneered the use of full-face diving masks, with the regulator (air supply) off to the side, to ensure clear vision of the actors face, whilst including the ability to communicate between divers. This technology has since been used in pretty much every underwater documentary since.

The exhibition includes original set pieces and props like:
Jack's clothes (worn by Leonardo Di Caprio, and Rose's dress (worn by Kate Winslett)
Original sketchings from the movie Titanic, when Jack is sketching Rose, which were actually done by James Cameron
James Cameron's dive helmet from the movie The Abyss

However these only lead up to the main purpose; showcasing James Cameron's solo descent to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, just off Guam in the Pacific Ocean on the 26th March 2012.

Titanic, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslett, James Cameron, Image by Jade Jackson
See the original costumes worn by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslett in Titanic at the exhibition. Image by Jade Jackson.


James was only the third person in history to visit the bottom of the deepest point of the ocean and the first to do it solo. In comparison, twelve astronauts have walked on the moon.

You can see original concept sketches, blueprints and crawl into a replica capsule that James sat in for hours whilst on his descent.

If you've seen the documentary Deepsea Challenge 3D, then much of the information won't be new, however, the film props and documentaries on how each film helped get him to his goal of visiting the Mariana Trench help explain the backstory.

The submersible Deepsea Challenger, included custom engineered technologies, purpose-built for the deep dive and the original was built in a warehouse in Sydney by team members who had worked on his previous movies. The original Deepsea Challenger does not appear at the exhibition, which I was disappointed by. There was a miniature replica but it lacked the 'wow' factor of being able to see and touch the original contraption.

Challenger Deep Capsule, James Cameron, Martime Museum, Image by Jade Jackson
A replica of the capsule James Cameron sat in for hours during the descent to the Mariana Trench. Image by Jade Jackson.


Supposedly it was damaged en-route to Sydney and stayed in the USA, however, the day I visited the Maritime Museum, I saw a tweet that mentioned the Deepsea Challenger was being exhibited in New York at the American Natural History Museum and further tweets allude that it shall remain there forever more.

James Cameron, Challenger Deep, Sydney Exhibition
James Cameron's tweet about the location of the Challenger Deep. Screenshot from twitter.


Included with the exhibition ticket, you can view a shortened version (40 minutes) of the Deepsea Challenger film which is on at 11am and 3pm daily, and at 2pm, a Blue Planet short film about oceans (25 minutes).

There's a lot of information to read, so I wouldn't recommend the exhibition for young, kids, however there are three short films within the exhibition and a few interactive displays that might hold their interest long enough for you to read the information.

As a fan of James Cameron who has followed his career, much of the information wasn't brand new, but it's still interesting seeing his childhood creations, his pioneering technologies and original set pieces from his movies.

Challenger Deep Sydney, James Cameron, Image by Jade JAckson, Maritime Museum Sydney
A replica scale model of the Challenger Deep. Image by Jade Jackson.


Entry to the exhibition is $20 for adults or $12 for concession and children. A family pass (2A and 3C) is $50. Children under 4 years old are free. You can buy a Big Ticket which includes entry to the naval ships for $32 for adults, $20 for children and $79 for a family.

To make the most of the Big Ticket, you'll need to allow a full day. I gave myself three hours and just managed to see two paid exhibitions, the Deepsea Challenge 3D movie, with a quick visit to the gift shop.

Like all good exhibitions, the gift shop includes unqiue and exclusives treasures including hats, shirts, books (several imported books) and DVDs. If you're a Titanic fan, you'll go nuts over the replica Jewel of the Ocean necklaces, key rings, and other Titanic paraphernalia.

Allow two hours to see the James Cameron exhibition in full, and watch the 3D movie. James Cameron Challenging the Deep is on now until the 31st January 2019 at the Australian Maritime Museum, Darling Harbour.
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Why? An interesting, immersive exhibition detailing James Cameronís career.
When: On now until 31 Jan 2019. Museum open 9:30am to 5pm (extended to 6pm in Jan) except tall ships close at 4:10pm.
Phone: PH: 02 9298 3777
Where: Australian National Maritime Museum, Darling Harbour
Cost: $20 adults, $12 children and concession, $50 family (2A 3C). Under four years old free.
Your Comment
Great article Jade. It looks like a fascinating exhibition.
by Amanda I (score: 2|819) 440 days ago
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