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Rob McCallum, A Stealthy Force Behind Modern Oceanographic Exploration

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Rob McCallum shouldn’t be a family title, however within the exploration world, significantly oceans, he’s a giant deal. As a founding companion of EYOS Expeditions, the New Zealander since 2008 has helped set up, information and execute logistics for greater than 1,000 expeditions to a few of the world’s remotest locations. Excessive-profile tasks embrace James Cameron’s (2012) and Victor Vescovo’s (2019-22) dives to Challenger Deep within the Mariana Trench, the bottom level on Earth almost 36,000 toes under sea degree; visits to dozens of deep shipwrecks, together with RMS Titanic and the Bismarck; a circumnavigation of Antarctica in an icebreaker…the listing goes on.

Final month, McCallum’s firm helped find the deepest shipwreck ever found, the “Sammy B” (USS Samuel B Roberts), in 22,916 toes of water. Later this month, McCallum is off to assist one other dive to Challenger Deep, this time for Esri chief scientist Daybreak Wright, who will change into the primary African American to achieve such a depth. We thought it will be attention-grabbing to talk with McCallum earlier than he left for the Pacific. Following are edited excerpts from an extended telephone dialog.

Jim Conflict: You assist all of those excessive expeditions, largely behind the scenes. Do you ever get to go down within the subs your self?

Rob McCallum: As a matter of reality, I did go to Challenger Deep. I used to be No. 18 to do it. For me, it’s at all times an expert expedition, getting my shoppers to those unimaginable locations. However on this case, Victor [Vescovo] was sort sufficient to return the favor. He knew that this had been a boyhood dream for me. I’ve been a good friend of Don Walsh’s [first person to Challenger Deep, in 1960] for 30 years, sailed many instances with him, and I needed to comply with in his footsteps. When within the submersible, you understand that you’re simply the tip of the spear for an unlimited engineering undertaking. We had some particular scientific issues we needed to perform down there, to maximise our backside time. That meant lots to me.

Conflict: Whenever you went down, did you are feeling any worry? I imply, the strain 7 miles under the floor of the Pacific is gigantic.

McCallum: No, I felt no worry. The human mind is attention-grabbing in that it doesn’t make the leap into worry if it might probably’t sense hazard. The analogy I exploit is when folks sit in a business plane flying at 30,000 toes. After they look out of the window, they don’t suppose, “Jesus Christ, it’s -55 levels on the market, there’s virtually no oxygen, the wind is 500 mph.” They appear down and say, “I can see a motorway, a city.” Properly, that’s as a result of we are able to’t sense the chilly or the low air strain or the wind pace. The sub is identical. You’re sitting on this cocoon, there’s no sense of motion, no noise from the surface. And, in fact, you’ll be able to’t detect a change of strain within the car as a result of it stays the identical. The sub is a really calm, quiet place.

Conflict: Okay, that is sensible. However in conditions the place you’re extra uncovered to harsh components, how do you deal with worry?

McCallum: I’ve an early background in managing emergency conditions. You be taught to not let worry block ahead progress. You’re acutely aware that there’s hazard, however mark it down as a threat to be managed relatively than one thing to be feared. My spouse says, “Rob you aren’t fearful of something.” Properly, I’m not scared, simply cautious. That’s vital. Wing-suit divers, base jumpers, fighter pilots – and I’ve talked to all of them – say they want the flexibility to transcend worry, to not get caught like a deer in headlights. They should suppose clearly and calmly about the place they’re in house and time, and the best way to navigate by the issue.

Conflict: You went down within the Limiting Issue, the sub that Victor Vescovo owns and constructed, and the one one on the planet now able to taking people to such depths. In a manner, it’s the top of ocean engineering achievement, right?

McCallum: One factor that’s attention-grabbing speaking to journalists is that all of them describe the sub as that pinnacle of sub-sea engineering. We had Jim’s [Cameron] machine, now we’ve got this one. I don’t see it that manner in any respect. It’s really on the backside of the triangle. That is the Mannequin T Ford [laughs]. Think about what it’ll be like sooner or later? Positive, Henry Ford’s automotive was the engineering pinnacle on the time, however if you look again, it was the very starting. Every thing from then on acquired higher and higher. I believe that Limiting Issue would be the identical. We’ve already began work on the subsequent era of subs.

Conflict: Properly, this factor already goes to Earth’s deepest level. How are you going to make it higher?

McCallum: I don’t wish to give away something, however you would go quicker, carry extra folks, keep down longer, have higher visibility, enhance payload measurement to deliver extra issues again. There’s infinite potential for enchancment.

Conflict: Lately, Ernest Shackelton’s Endurance ship was discovered on the backside of Antarctica’s Weddell Sea. Have been you concerned in that operation?

McCallum: I used to be, again to start with. I did the unique feasibility examine in 2014, for Nationwide Geographic, then wrote the primary draft of an operational plan on the best way to discover it. However we weren’t concerned with the blokes that did discover it final 12 months.

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