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James Cameron – Challenging the Deep immerses visitors in the deep sea

James Cameron – Challenging the Deep highlights the explorations of explorer and filmmaker James Cameron in the deep sea.

Without a doubt, Telus World of Science makes me feel like I’m learning something new every time I visit, and that’s important to foster in kids and adults alike. To remember the nostalgia felt as a child seeing exhibits for the first time, visiting the IMAX shows and the astronaut displays. It makes science into something that everyone can enjoy. Walking into James Cameron – Challenging the Deep, Telus World of Science’s newest feature exhibition display, it felt like just another part of that experience.

The exhibit pays homage to James Cameron, a deep sea explorer and director of notable movies like 1997 blockbuster Titanic. I was struck with the sense of nature: the room’s dark atmosphere glowed with the rippling lights, creating a sense of entering the ocean from the moment I went into the room. Throughout the exhibit are screens playing different film clips from Cameron’s studies, the pictures covering the walls from top to bottom while making me feel incredibly small.

“That’s exactly what our focus was,” Kim Butts, director of design, explained to me. “We really wanted people to feel those depths because when you’re standing in front of the screens, you really feel like you’re inside. And so it really was to create that ambience of being right there with him.”

It certainly felt like I was there alongside James Cameron; spread around the room were a variety of models of the submersibles, including the star of the new IMAX film, DEEPSEA CHALLENGE 3D, which follows Cameron through an underwater experience. Never before displayed at previous exhibitions, the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER takes up the centre of the exhibit’s space, and you can’t take your eyes away from it. But the variety of Titanic movie props and artwork, alongside the enormous display of the broken half of the ship itself, was an equally humbling experience in understanding the vast depths of the ocean still to be explored.

A photo from the James Cameron – Challenging the Deep exhibit
Madeline Mayes

I also spoke with Monica Roberts, the director of science experience, in order to understand the way the exhibit was planned for our local science centre.

“For James Cameron’s exhibit, and to understand who that individual is, really required a cinematic approach. He tells stories through visuals, and that’s why this exhibit has so many giant screens, specific area lighting, all of it is created so that he and the exhibit designers could focus the visitors attention to certain things. It’s a dark experience. And it is a beautiful experience in that way,” Roberts explained. “As a science centre, we really believe that people also learn from experiences that are more full-body. We really want to make sure that we are satisfying people’s curiosity with different ways of exploring the themes.”

The exhibit absolutely surprised me with the numerous activities to engage with; for what sounds like an exhibit meant to inform, it equally allowed for experiences as well, from climbing into a model submersible, to examining samples of underwater materials with a microscope, to seeing aquatic creatures for yourself up close. Despite coming to the exhibit without any knowledge of undersea diving expeditions, I felt compelled to learn more about them just being in the room.

Roberts hoped that others would feel the same way as well when visiting the centre.

“James Cameron is a Canadian, and he grew up in Ontario. He wasn’t connected to oceans either, but was inspired by Jacques Cousteau by seeing a museum exhibit. So we’re hoping we’re doing the same for the next generation of James Camerons, the next little scientist who asks a question about a jellyfish, and nobody knows the answer. They become the one who needs to know, and starts a whole lifetime career in deep sea exploration,” she said. 

“Ultimately, that’s why we love to bring in these kinds of future exhibits. Because it allows us to talk about the different kinds of science, it allows us to shine a spotlight on someone or somewhere else that can help inspire curiosity, and make people want to know and explore more, to understand more.”

Through enjoying the many aspects of the new exhibition, I certainly found myself wanting to learn more and discover more. So I decided to check out the IMAX film while I was there, DEEPSEA CHALLENGE 3D. The movie was a wonderful ending to my experience; not too long at 40 minutes, the film brought the aspects of the exhibit to life with Cameron’s record-breaking dive in the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER, between the process and the dangers involved in diving into Marianas Trench, collecting samples from the ocean floor, and seven hours total of sitting in the capsule diving down and hoping you make it back to the surface. I loved seeing them both one after the other!

I recommend the exhibit for anyone interested in learning new things about the ocean, as well as anyone interested in Cameron’s film works. It will leave you in awe of nature’s beauty, as well as its secrets.

You can now visit the exhibit, alongside the feature IMAX companion film.

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