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Aliens of the Deep: Production Notes

© 2005 Buena Vista Pictures Distribution and Walden Media, LLC. All rights reserved.


Academy Award®-winning director James Cameron combines his talents as a filmmaker with his passion for exploration in all forms in Aliens of the Deep, an Earthship Production presented in IMAX® 3-D by Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media. Inspired by concepts from the field of astrobiology -- the study of life on other worlds -- Cameron explores the idea that the bizarre creatures living in the extreme environments found on the ocean floor might provide a blueprint for what life is like elsewhere in the universe. The director is joined in the journey by a team of young marine biologists and NASA researchers who share his interests and excitement as they consider the correlation between life under water and the life we may one day find in outer space.

Aliens of the Deep presents the dramatic and visually stunning highlights of a series of expeditions to deep-ocean hydrothermal vents, where super-heated, mineral-charged water gives life to some of the strangest animals on Earth -- 6-foot-tall worms with blood-red plumes, blind white crabs, and an astonishing biomass of white shrimp, all competing to find just the right location in the flow of near-boiling water. This adventure brings the audience face to face with what it might be like to travel far into space and encounter life on other worlds.

Aliens of the Deep was directed by James Cameron and Steven Quale. The film was produced by Andrew Wight and James Cameron. Ed W. Marsh served as Creative Producer. Buena Vista Pictures distributes. The film opens in IMAX® theaters on January 28.


"These deep-ocean expeditions always seem like space missions to me. So why not combine outer space and inner space? Sure we'll take marine biologists, but why not take astrobiologists and space researchers? It makes sense, really, because at the bottom of the ocean are the most insane alien life forms that have ever been discovered," says James Cameron, the Academy Award®-winning director of Titanic, Aliens, and The Terminator as well as the IMAX® 3-D adventure Ghosts of the Abyss. "The battle cry of astrobiology is 'follow the water,' because it's the one common ingredient we know to be necessary for life in all its forms here on Earth," Cameron continues. "We may find extremophiles very similar to the ones from our own planet in subterranean aquifers on Mars or on the ice moons of Jupiter." In fact, scientists believe that Europa, the second moon of Jupiter, contains an ocean with twice the volume of all Earth's oceans combined, hidden beneath a thick, cracked icy shell.

"How are we going to explore Europa?" Cameron asks. "What will the vehicles be like? How will the robotics work and how will they transmit their data up through that alien ocean? We have to be considering these questions now for an expedition that might not take place for another twenty years or so."

"So, this film is really about adventure on two levels," Cameron says. "There's the physical adventure, of course -- we went to an extreme edge of life, down to the bottom of the ocean, a place very few people have ever been. And there's also the 'inner adventure' -- the adventure of discovery and finding out something new, putting the pieces together and coming to a new understanding."

© 2005 Buena Vista Pictures Distribution and Walden Media, LLC. All rights reserved.

Cameron has been intrigued by the field of astrobiology for quite some time. It is a relatively new hybrid of many science disciplines, including biology and planetary science, in which scientists contemplate the possibility of extraterrestrial life within the conceptual framework of what is known about life on our own world. "An astrobiologist is someone who's studying something they can't get their hands on," notes Cameron. "They're studying life that's theoretical and trying to figure out where they might find it and how they might study it. But sooner or later, it's necessary to put theory to the test. Let's jump into a submarine, let's go down two miles and let's look at stuff that might be an analog for what might find on other worlds."

With this goal in mind, Cameron worked with researchers at NASA and Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to find a project that would not only make an entertaining film but bring the latest advances in the search for extraterrestrial life to audiences around the world. Cameron says, "I asked, 'Do you have experiments you could be doing at hydrothermal vent sites that will allow us to tell the story of how the extremophile life that's living in these very harsh, very strange conditions might relate to the search for life out in the cosmos?' And they responded very enthusiastically."

As a result, Cameron is joined in the expedition in Aliens of the Deep by young men and women in the fields of marine biology, astrobiology, and space science. "I want to put a spotlight on what they do," says Cameron. "These people have dedicated their lives to this mystery. You don't go into this field for fame or to make a lot of money; you do it because you want to know. You do it because something inside you says that you have to be a detective, to find out about the great mysteries of life, the Earth, and the universe.

"I carefully selected the 'cast' for this film," says Cameron. "I definitely wanted people who were good scientists and could explain things in technically correct language, but who were also appealing as people and good communicators to the audience. I approached young people who still have that sense of wonder, that eye of the tiger -- I wanted to capture that sense of excitement, that idea that science is an adventure."

"I know when everybody thinks of the scientist, they think of the glasses and the lab coat, but we also have a lot of fun," says Dijanna Figueroa, a Ph.D. student in Marine Biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who joined Cameron on the journey. "Science is also about getting into the field, and seeing things in strange places that people had never seen before. And this expedition has been great for that -- it was months of work, but there was a huge scientific payoff. I think it was that way for all of the scientists -- getting to go down and do our science was a great adrenaline rush."

But in addition to having a great adventure and providing a spotlight for scientists who are working on the great questions of extraterrestrial life, Cameron also sought to make an entertaining film. "There are six billion people on the planet, and they're all not going to get into a submersible and go down to the bottom of the ocean to see these amazing creatures. So, we shot it in 3-D, with high-definition cameras, so we could put it up on the big screen, and audiences around the world can share in the experience.

"And -- honestly -- it's a more satisfying experience in 3-D, because our camera can tilt and pan and look around; it can follow something that goes swimming by. In the submersible, all you have is the porthole," Cameron adds. "Sure, it's exciting to be down there, but you get to see the magic of this world better on an IMAX® screen and in 3-D."


Scientists at JPL and NASA have embraced the cutting-edge concept explored in Aliens of the Deep, that an expedition to study life on the ocean floor can teach us about an expedition to study life in the furthest reaches of the solar system.

Arthur Lonne Lane is a principal scientist at JPL now in his 38th year with the organization. "Interest started in this about seven years ago," notes Lane. "I was part of the Jupiter mission, both with Voyager and with Galileo. It turns out that ice has unique chemistries on Jupiter's moons; with the volcanoes on the moon Io spewing sulphur out to the other moons, there's a very interesting set of chemical reactions. So I became interested in ice.

"With another scientist at JPL, we started looking at a freshwater lake buried two-and-ahalf miles under the ice in Antarctica. In ancient history, we think, it was part of Australia; it had a temperate climate. It was lush. It was green. There were animals. But when it broke apart, the climate changed and Antarctica froze pretty quickly.

"So here's the question: You have a body of water that probably had life going on, frozen over for a long period of time by an icecap, sealed. What's going on down there? Can life exist in this kind of environment? How could you measure anything in this body of water that's been sealed so long -- is it sterile?

"And while we were looking at this lake, we had parallel results from Voyager and Galileo: the missions pointed to a very large ocean under the ice on Europa. Is there a parallel? Could there be life under the ice?

"And then came the realization that life did not require light. One of the paradigms when I went to school was that life had to have light. No. That's wrong. We've proven that."

© 2005 Buena Vista Pictures Distribution and Walden Media, LLC. All rights reserved.

In fact, life exists on the ocean floor, several miles down, where sunlight cannot reach. Life can exist at such depths due to hydrothermal vents, where volcanic activity at the ocean floor releases minerals into the water. Kevin Hand, a planetary scientist and astrobiologist who joined Cameron on the expedition, explains that life in these harsh conditions is made possible by the energy-rich chemistry of the superheated mineral-charged water. "There are microorganisms that live in these extremely hot and toxic environments that metabolize chemicals in the vent water and, in so doing, fix carbon in such a way that it becomes available to the larger creatures," Hand explains. In simpler terms, the microbes eat what the larger organisms cannot and in the process create sugars and other nutrients from which the shrimp and the mussels and the tube worms can live.

Lane continues, "So here you have parallels among the deep ocean, a lake in Antarctica, and a moon of Jupiter. What are the common points? How do you explore them?

"I've been a scientist for almost 40 years, so I'm not going to be around for the Europa exploration. That's another 20 years down the road, perhaps," Lane concludes. "But the last part of my career is about setting in place the concept, the steps by which you get there and testing out these ideas, so that people can easily move forward."


Chosen not only for their skill in their respective sciences but also for their ability to explain their work in entertaining ways that will inspire motion picture audiences around the world, Cameron's crew of scientists and researchers are some of the people who will be working on the great questions of extraterrestrial life in the next twenty years.

Joining Cameron on the expedition are Marine Scientist Dijanna Figueroa, Astrobiologist Pan Conrad, NASA Planetary Scientist Kelly Snook, and Geological Environmental Scientist/Astrobiologist Kevin Hand. "These young people are really driven by the need to know," Cameron says. "Inside, they're all saying, 'This is an adventure. This is the coolest thing that a person could be doing.'We wanted to portray that, put it on film.

"I wasn't expecting my 'cast' to be as good as it is," Cameron continues. "They're young, eager men and women; they're enthusiastic, they're willing to go to whatever lengths necessary to explore these mysteries. But the big discovery for me was that they're all really cool -- their sense of wonder and their passion for their work is infectious."

Dijanna Figueroa, a Ph.D. candidate in Marine Biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, relished the chance to study life at extreme depth. "On every dive, I saw something I've never seen before," she notes excitedly. "I was on this trip to collect animals for UCSB," she continues. "We have an aquarium system at our lab where we can keep hydrothermal vent animals at the same pressure, temperature, and chemical environment they experience in nature and this allows us to study them under very controlled conditions over very long periods of time. It was months of work with a huge scientific payoff."

"The challenge was getting good samples," says Cameron. "Dijanna made four or five dives, so she's now, at the age of 24 or 25, a hardened submersible diver."

Pan (short for Pamela) Conrad is an astrobiologist who works for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California, which is run by the California Institute of Technology for NASA. Aliens of the Deep represented new ground for Conrad, but she embraced the opportunity. "The sea floor is a very different exploration environment than the ones we're accustomed to at JPL," she says. "But when somebody offers you a chance to jump into a submarine and go to the hydrothermal vents, you can't say no."

According to the NASA Astrobiology Institute, astrobiologists seek to answer several important questions about the possibility of extraterrestrial life: How do habitable worlds form and how do they evolve? How did living systems emerge? How can we recognize other biospheres? How have the geophysical nature of the Earth and its biosphere influenced each other over time? Conrad gives some insight into how she and her colleagues might go about answering these questions: "When you think about how you might look for life on another planet, you have to first design tools that could tell you if what you're looking at is actually life. So, we've been working on a tool at JPL which might give you a clue that you're looking at life without having to touch it, so that you don't contaminate it if it actually is life."

With this in mind, Conrad, working with JPL's Arthur Lonne Lane, designed, tested, and built an instrument specifically for these dives that would test this concept. "We built an instrument that uses light to tickle the molecules that are part of the material they're probing, and those molecules will tell you what they are -- if you use a laser light to illuminate organic material, certain molecules in that material will glow with a very specific color, and that color tells you which molecules are present. It's also got a camera, so we can see what's happening in real time -- we know exactly what we're looking at."

Kevin Hand, an astrobiologist and Ph.D. student in the geology department at Stanford University, is merging his physics and astronomy background with geology and biology in an effort to understand the origin, distribution, and evolution of life in our solar system. Along with trying to understand the origin of life on Earth, he is interested in the possibility of life on other planets. "My focus is on Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter," he says. "It's believed that there's a liquid water ocean underneath the moon's icy outer shell. If that's right, then these hydrothermal sites may be of some interest to the astrobiology community looking at ecosystems in icy moons or on icy planets. Studying life in the extreme environments of Earth, and in particular at the hydrothermal vents, helps us understand how life itself works. Life on Earth is bizarre and beautiful, and we still have so much yet to learn with regard to what makes life possible. Our understanding of life on Earth guides us as we search for life elsewhere in the solar system."

Finally, Kelly Snook, a NASA planetary scientist who joined Cameron on the expedition, makes the connection between "inner space and outer space," she says. "There are many comparisons we can draw between this expedition and a mission to Mars. We can learn valuable lessons about how to explore another planet scientifically. We've learned a lot that can feed directly into the planning of space missions."


"When you walk up to the submersible before the dive, it looks big and sturdy -- you get comfortable and relaxed. And then the day comes for your dive," says Figueroa. "You get in and your adrenaline is pumping and they close the hatch and everything goes quiet. And that's when you realize: 'I'm about to go down 3,600 meters -- over 4,000 pounds per square inch of pressure pushing in on us -- in this submarine, in this huge ocean.' And then it doesn't feel like the sub is so big anymore.

"When you dive down, as you go deeper and deeper -- below 2,500 meters -- it's cold," Figueroa continues. "Everyone puts on parkas and hoods and hats and gloves. And that's when you realize something else: you've put all your faith and trust in people who are telling you that this sub is safe so you can go down to the bottom of the sea and do this science, and you do it because the animals live down there and it's your job to check it out. Every dive, I had that experience -- uncomfortable and maybe just a little afraid of what might happen -- and it was always worth it to me."

© 2005 Buena Vista Pictures Distribution and Walden Media, LLC. All rights reserved.

"On every dive, there's a 'wow' factor," says Cameron. "There's always something popping up that you couldn't imagine. On one memorable dive, the two subs were descending together and we were looking at each other through the viewports, when all of a sudden, an enormous Humboldt squid attacked our lights -- blocked out the other sub, right in front of us. Our first reaction was, 'Whoa!' and our second reaction was, 'That was the coolest thing I've ever seen.'"

Cameron filmed the adventure with his Reality Camera System (RCS), the revolutionary 3-D camera system first used to film Cameron's expedition to the Titanic for Ghosts of the Abyss. The lightweight RCS embraces digital technology and allows Cameron to shoot for hours at a time and go where no large-format camera could go before due to its size--breaking the two primary impediments to large-format filmmaking.

Cameron was able to get up close and personal with the marine life using a "bot" or ROV (Remote-Operated Vehicle), which could go where the larger submersibles couldn't. The director's brother, Mike Cameron, designed the bot, nicknamed Jake, which was first tested inside the wreck of the Titanic in Ghosts of the Abyss.

Going to some of the most exotic locations in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, Cameron and the scientists discovered breathtaking animal life and geologic formations unlike any to be seen on the surface.

One such location was Lost City, where, Cameron says, some of the geologic structures have grown to heights of 300 feet. "Most of the hydrothermal vent chimneys we explored were powered by magma chambers within the Earth," notes the director. "Those chimneys are very hot and very active. They can grow several meters a year and topple over quite often. The chimneys at Lost City, however, are powered by a chemical reaction between the sea water and exposed mantle rock, an exothermic reaction similar to the handwarmer packets used by skiers. So it's a much slower process. The chimneys at Lost City are estimated to be at least 30,000 years old."

Another memorable location was Snake Pit, a hydrothermal vent site where the explorers saw, in Cameron's words, "acres and acres of blind shrimp just churning within the black smoke of the vent fluid, trying to get at the nutrients that are pouring up out of the Earth. They look like volcanoes or smokestacks and the water was super hot -- if we'd gone in there with the sub it would have melted our viewports, and yet these shrimp were loving it."

Some of the strangest animals studied by the team were seen southwest of Mexico, at the 9 North Site on the East Pacific Rise. "We saw these amazing tubeworms," says Cameron. "Their 'feet' -- where they're attached to the ocean floor -- are in freezing water. And their other ends, the plumes, are in very hot water--150 degrees Fahrenheit. How can they possibly live under those conditions? They live in a temperature extreme we can't imagine, but they've adapted."

In the Guaymas Basin in the Sea of Cortez, the team literally ran into some hot water. "We saw these 'pagoda' structures," remembers Cameron. "The hot water rises up, hits an overhang, and it can form a flat surface of hot water that looks like a lake. If you get down below, you can see a reflection, like in a surface of a lake, because of the temperature difference.

"Well, these things were 20 feet across. From above, they looked like giant mushrooms. Absolutely the most bizarre and gorgeous formations we saw throughout the expedition, and to our knowledge, they had never been imaged before."

For the scientists, the deep-sea dives were a great opportunity to get out of the lab and into the field. Though Conrad's work -- designing and building her "life detection" instrument -- was completed before she joined the expedition, the astrobiologist relished the opportunity to dive and see the results of her hard work in action (even though, at times, she seemed like a nervous parent). "I dove three times and took our fancy-dancy optical instrument to the bottom of the sea. I bit my fingernails and hoped it didn't blow up, explode, implode, or do otherwise unsavory things," Conrad laughs.

"I had nine dives -- four in the Atlantic, and five in the Pacific," says Hand. "When you first reach the bottom of the ocean, usually all you see are rocks and maybe some sediment, and that's it. Then you start cruising along the bottom to get to the hydrothermal vent site. It takes a bit of searching and it's quite exciting, because the anticipation of seeing the vents builds as you soar along the seafloor. As you get closer and closer to the vents, you start seeing life -- some crabs, some fish, anemone -- until you get there and it's just a tornado of life -- just flourishing. It's an incredible amount of activity. That was my favorite part of each dive -- the approach to each site; it was like approaching the top of a mountain and being awestruck by the magnificent view."

* * *

In the end, the scientists' mission was not only a unique opportunity to perform groundbreaking and cutting-edge scientific work but a journey of personal discovery. "You cannot got to the bottom of the sea and come back the same person," says Conrad. "You cannot meet a group of people that work as hard as this film crew and not appreciate their contribution. But I think the most important take-home message for me is that we can demand of ourselves the impossible -- for me, it was impossible to design, build, and test a scientific instrument in five months. But we did it. If you just keep reaching deep inside yourself and pulling out more and more, you get the prize in the Cracker Jack box."

Figueroa describes unforeseen challenges. "We were on a Russian ship," she says, "and the Russians use 220-volt power, while our lab is set up for 110-volt. And our equipment is powerful enough that you just can't plug in a travel adaptor. That took some work to figure out. Then there's the film crew, with their cameras and equipment everywhere -- none of the scientists were used to that! But we learned and in the end, it was great. Everybody was on the same team. Just like in your day-to-day life: you have a job to do and, if you go with the flow, you get it done."

"It was also great to meet and work with different people from all walks of life. You're on a boat for weeks on end with this roughly one-hundred-person team and as a result you do everything together. I really enjoyed watching the Russian engineers take care of the submersibles -- you could tell that this crew knew every nut, bolt, and wire. They have a good, robust system. It was impressive. It was also fun working with the Russian scientists, though the language barrier was quite a bit larger there and thus there were a lot more hand gestures and confused looks." Hand continues. "The production team was great too, full of amazing characters. We all worked together, ate together, hung out together on the deck at night and traded stories. I've made some great friends."

Finally, Cameron and his team hope that Aliens of the Deep will provide inspiration for the next generation of scientists and explorers--children who are just now beginning their scientific education.

"Every time NASA sends a spacecraft to some solar system destination, there's a camera on board," says Conrad. "As a child, I remember seeing those images and just being floored. I'm living proof that those images were meaningful; I'm here, doing science. I'm living the dream that got started by images of a guy walking on the surface of the moon."

"My day-to-day work is mostly theoretical and experimental work in the lab," says Hand. "I work with equations, programs, and lots of lab equipment. We're trying to simulate -- both mathematically and experimentally -- conditions on Europa. At the moment, there's no way for us to go and grab a sample of Europa -- thus I don't usually get a chance to go out into the field for my work. Getting to explore the bottom of the ocean with Jim and crew was an incredibly mind-opening experience. Nothing beats actually seeing the environment you're trying to study and understand. Now, I want to do whatever I can to share that experience of the exploration side of science."

Cameron concludes, "Ideally, there'll be kids out in the audience for this film who'll say, 'I want to do that -- I want to do what they do, because science is an adventure.'"

© 2005 Buena Vista Pictures Distribution and Walden Media, LLC. All rights reserved.


Born in Kapuskasing, Ontario, JAMES CAMERON (co-director/producer) grew up near Niagara Falls and, in 1971, moved to Brea, California, where he studied physics at Fullerton College while working as a machinist and, later, a truck driver.

Self-taught in filmmaking and visual effects, Cameron went to work for low-budget producer Roger Corman on "Battle Beyond the Stars" in 1980. In 1984, he directed "The Terminator" from his own screenplay. Cameron has since written and directed "Aliens," "The Abyss," "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," "True Lies," and "Titanic." "Titanic" won 11 Academy Awards®, including Cameron's Oscars® for Best Director, Best Editing and Best Picture, and has grossed $1.8 billion at the box office, more than any other film. Cameron then cocreated and produced 44 episodes of "Dark Angel," which gained a loyal following and a number of prestigious nominations and awards.

In 1995, Cameron made 12 dives to the Titanic wreck to gather shots for his feature film. In recent years, his desire to bring profound experience of deep-ocean exploration to audiences around the world motivated Cameron to turn to documentary filmmaking and the development of a 3-D Reality Camera System, which he codeveloped with Pace Technologies and Sony. Cameron worked with his brother Mike to design and build underwater housings that enable the cameras to be taken to depths of up to 20,000 feet and two ROVs with the capability to explore anywhere inside deep shipwrecks. The expedition was the subject of Cameron's 3-D IMAX® movie, "Ghosts of the Abyss." In May of 2002, Cameron guided his robotic cameras inside the wreck of the battleship Bismarck, which resulted in groundbreaking discoveries about the sinking of the legendary German battleship and the Discovery Channel documentary, "James Cameron's Expedition: Bismarck." Cameron has made a total of 49 dives in the MIR submersibles and currently co-owns the two Deep Rover submersibles. For "Aliens of the Deep," he codirected topside scenes and directed underwater scenes, as well as operated the deep-ocean camera system. His Earthship Productions documentary company is planning future ocean expeditions to be interspersed with feature films which he will produce and direct under his Lightstorm Entertainment banner. He serves on the NASA Advisory Council and is involved in space policy and exploration, as well as ocean exploration and conservation.

STEVEN QUALE (co-director) has worked with James Cameron for over sixteen years, assisting Cameron on every one of his feature films since "The Abyss."

In the summer of 1988, Quale joined the art department on "The Abyss," where he helped Cameron design complex action sequences by building and videotaping study models of various sets with a miniature camera. After a summer working at George Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic, Quale was called back to work on "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," where Cameron enlisted his help in shooting several second unit sequences.

In 1992, Quale served as Director of Photography on the Miramax film "The Crude Oasis." That same year, Quale performed a multitude of duties on "The Abyss: Special Edition," including picture editing and the insertion of all the new music.

When "Titanic" first loomed on the horizon in 1995, Cameron recruited Steve to join his select crew for an expedition aboard the Russian research ship, Academik Keldysh, filming a dozen dives to the wreck. When principal photography began two years later, Quale directed a large second unit shoot that by many standards was bigger than most first units. He was responsible for sequences in the Engine Room and the Boiler Room, including all of the below-deck flooding shots as the Titanic strikes the iceberg. Quale also supervised the visual effects for the Engine Room sequence, including the most radical handheld motion-tracking green screen composites ever attempted at that time. To further enhance the reality of the Titanic's engine room, Quale flew to San Francisco to shoot aboard a World War II-era Liberty ship, seamlessly integrating this footage with shots of a 1/14 scale model and digitally composited green-screen actors. The film won an Oscar® for its visual effects.

After "Titanic," Quale continued his second unit work on Universal's "Rocky and Bullwinkle" and Disney's "The Haunted Mansion." In addition, he has shot commercials and music videos, working with such artists as Eminem, Dream and Montell Jordan.

In 2001, Quale directed the Lions Gate/ABC movie "Superfire," for which he created a blazing inferno in the woods of New Zealand. The film, with its spectacular fire sequences, was nominated for an Emmy for Best Visual Effects.

Aliens of the Deep is Quale's return to open-water photography aboard the Keldysh, and a chance for him to express his long-standing passion for outer space.

ANDREW WIGHT (producer) is a modern-day underwater explorer and filmmaker who, prior to filmmaking, began his career in agricultural science and has worked in scientific research. He is a respected scuba- and cave-diving instructor, commercial helicopter pilot and farmer who left a successful marketing career with Cooper's Animal Health veterinary company to enter the world of adventure filmmaking.

An Australian Geographic Adventurer of the Year medal winner, Wight initiated and lead the record-breaking Pannikin Plain Cave Diving Expedition into Australia's remote southwest in 1988. Andrew produced the award-winning documentary of this expedition, "Nullarbor Dreaming."

Andrew has lead expeditions to dive and explore some of the most remote and bizarre regions of the world, including Mid Atlantic, Alaska, Mexico, Canada, Florida, Cuba, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, New Caladonia, Fiji, New Zealand, Gaudaloupe Islands, Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Belize, Dry Tortugas, Navassa Islands, Costa Rica, Coccos Island, Galapagos Islands, Lord Howe Islands, Titanic, Bismarck and Australia.

Wight has produced 40 documentary films since 1988. His company, Great Wight Productions, has gained an international reputation for making award-winning adventure television programs. His programs are screened in over 60 countries around the world.

Wight served as line producer for the 3-D IMAX® film "Ghosts of the Abyss," directed by James Cameron and released by Disney and Walden Media in 2002. He was also the producer for the two-hour television special directed by James Cameron for the Discovery Channel focusing on the sunken battleship Bismarck.

Before proposing to his wife, documentary filmmaker ED W. MARSH (creative producer/editor) explained that "being a filmmaker is kind of like being in the merchant marine. There will be long periods of time where I'm 'at sea' on a project and you won't see too much of me." He never guessed how literally true this statement would become.

Marsh began working with James Cameron on "The Abyss," editing scenes for the motion picture as well as documenting its production, a project that culminated in 1992's "Under Pressure: Making 'The Abyss,'" a frank and uncensored look at what many in the film industry still consider to be "the toughest shoot in film history." Marsh also cut the trailer for the film, earning him his first Hollywood Reporter Key Art Award.

Since that time, Marsh has been involved in some way with most of Cameron's productions, cutting trailers, writing behind-the-scenes books or directing documentary projects in association with the productions. Marsh's book, James Cameron's "Titanic," reached #1 on the New York Times non-fiction best-seller list at the peak of the movie's popularity and remained there for several weeks.

When Cameron set his sights on documentary filmmaking it made sense, then, to enlist Marsh as a core member of his creative team. At sea, he quickly earned the nickname "Oz" because he was most often heard communicating with the camera teams via radio while he remained unseen, deep in mission control, where he could respond to the live feeds. By the time "Ghosts of the Abyss" was completed, Marsh had helped pioneer several creative and technical methodologies enabling Cameron to combine many different types of media into the comprehensive 3-D presentation of the film.

On "Aliens of the Deep," Marsh and his editorial team faced the daunting task of finding the story amidst 2,000 hours of footage while striking a balance between the science and the visual. Not surprisingly, that balance was found within the stories and experiences of the participating scientists. Marsh spent many hours directing interviews with these individuals and shaped much of the voice-only narrative from their responses. "The other challenge we faced was the fact that so many of the ideas Jim wanted to convey with this movie had no visual component," explains Marsh. "We were constantly looking for visual ways to connect the dots." It was this style of thinking that led Marsh to create a sequence in which a scientist diving under the water is suddenly floating amidst the stars of deep space -- a visual metaphor for Cameron's central premise.

Outside of his work with Cameron, Marsh has had a variety of assignments ranging from creating the mock news broadcasts for the movie "Independence Day" to documenting organized crime activities in various parts of the world for PBS. He is currently researching a variety of projects, none of which (he's happy to tell his wife) require much time at sea.

VINCENT PACE (director of photography) is able to go beyond the limitations of conventional filmmaking in this challenging field.

Pace served on the underwater team filming Cameron's "The Abyss" in 1988. He subsequently founded Pace Technologies and has become the premiere supplier of underwater lights, film and video camera housings and equipment. He codeveloped the Reality Camera System and its deep-ocean housings, and worked as Directory of Photography on "Ghosts of the Abyss," the first IMAX® film to be shot using digital cameras. He subsequently developed the macro optics which have allowed the revolutionary deep-ocean 3-D photography of animals seen in "Aliens of the Deep," on which he served as Director of Photography and deep-ocean camera operator. He is currently finishing engineering on the second generation of the Reality Camera System, called RCS-2, in preparation for a major feature film to be directed by James Cameron in 3-D. Pace is a pioneering leader in HD cinematography and combines engineering with creativity in this exciting new age of digital cinema.

As a Producer and Visual Effects Supervisor for Jim Cameron's "Ghosts of the Abyss," CHUCK COMISKY helped to realize Cameron's continued foray into new technologies. The film was captured 100 percent with 24P HD cameras and equipment developed by Cameron and Vince Pace and exhibited in 15 perf. 70mm IMAX.® Chuck also produced the "Terminator 2 3-D" theme park film for Cameron while supervising the visual effects at Digital Domain and directing the commercial for the hugely popular attraction.

Recent producing credits include Universal Florida's 2001 remounted theme park attraction "Poseidon's Fury" (Film Producer) and Supervising Producer for 1999's "The Nuttiest Nutcracker," an all-CGI, 3-D animated 1-hour CBS special. Starting in 1979, Comisky produced and directed the visual effects for "Battle Beyond the Stars" -- a highly successful film for Roger Corman. He pioneered the digital compositing of film elements for "Jaws 3-D" and supervised the refinement and development of twin camera stereo 3-D visual effects ("Terminator 2 3-D").

For New Line Pictures' "Blade," "Rush Hour," and "Nightmare on Elm St. 5," Paramount Pictures' "Drop Zone" and "The Addams Family," plus Columbia's "The Last Action Hero," Comisky designed visual effects, directed effects photography and sat with digital artists, guiding them to the results expected by the film's directors.

Hired in post production to troubleshoot visual effects budget and scheduling issues for "The Crow" (1 and 3), "Space Camp," and "The Blob," Chuck brought all projects in on time and within budget.

Other production credits include Production Executive for an ABC prime-time pilot "Wayside School" directed by Tommy Schlamme, and Production Manager for Bill Condon's first feature, "Sister Sister." Jim Cameron hired Chuck to produce the teaser/trailer for "Terminator 2."

Comisky continues to supervise and produce high-definition and digital effects including 2-D/3-D animation, compositing, and optical effects. Directors worked with range from Arthur Hiller to Bill Condon, Bret Rattner, John Badham, Michael Ritchie, and James Cameron, among others.

© 2005 Buena Vista Pictures Distribution and Walden Media, LLC. All rights reserved.


As a senior scientist for the Jet Propulsion Lab's astrobiology research element, PAN CONRAD's job is to figure out ways to look for life on other planets. To do this, she learns about the chemical clues life leaves on Earth through time and tries to figure out how well these clues survive under various environmental conditions. These clues help her decode which features of life on Earth might be universal to life on other planets and how we might look for those features throughout the galaxy. Pan's favorite place to look for the evidence of life is inside rocks and sediment (including ice) -- especially as she seeks out evidence that shows how living things adapt to changing environments. Pan is presently engaged in a threeyear field campaign to make measurements of chemical biosignatures with non-contact (short-range remote sensing) instruments intended to detect subtle chemical signatures of microbial life that dwells on and in rocks and sediment. This field campaign has her running between the Arctic and the Antarctic. Ever since working with the Aliens of the Deep project, Pan can't wait to get back to the seafloor, which she considers one of the coolest places ever. The success with McDUVE (her research instrument highlighted in the film) on the MIR submersibles has inspired Pan to see what more she can learn about hydrothermal vents that might be relevant to solar system exploration.

She is also committed to public outreach and education, drawing on her prescience career as a writer and producer of educational media. Summers always bring a host of visiting students to her labs at JPL.

But it's not all the fun and games of data reduction and computer programming. Pan's education and former career in music have prepared her well when she's called upon to present her findings and argue scientific theory with the brightest minds in the world.

DIJANNA FIGUEROA is a Ph.D. graduate student in the Interdisciplinary Program in Marine Science at the University of California Santa Barbara. She grew up in Long Beach, California, and graduated from David Starr Jordan High School. She obtained her B.S. in Marine Biology from UCLA in 2001. While at UCLA, she studied pathogenetic mechanisms of muscular dystrophy as part of the university's Center for Academic Research Excellence. During her last year at UCLA, she interned at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and was introduced to the complex questions associated with life in the deep sea. Her current work focuses on the physiology and ecology of organisms adapted to some of the most extreme environments on Earth. Over the past few years, she has had the opportunity to conduct research at various deep-sea hydrothermal vents around the world. Since she began working in deep-sea environments, she has spent over 130 days at sea and participated in 12 manned submersible dives. When not at sea or in the lab, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading, and ballroom dancing. She is also very committed to the promotion of science education and its access to all members of society, regardless of class or ethnicity. She credits her parents, Joe and Dion Smotherman, for encouraging her to pursue her dreams.

KEVIN HAND is a graduate student in the Department of Geological & Environmental Sciences at Stanford University and President/Founder of Cosmos Education, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to grassroots science education in developing regions of the world. He is also an astrobiologist for the SETI Institute. Kevin's research focuses on the origin, evolution, and distribution of life in the solar system. Specifically, his Ph.D. dissertation involves both theoretical and experimental work on the habitability of the putative Europan ocean. He was born and raised in Manchester, Vermont, and has bachelor's degrees in physics and psychology from Dartmouth College and a master's degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University. He anticipates finishing his Ph.D. in 2007.

MAYA TOLSTOY was born near New York City, but spent much of her childhood in the wilds of Scotland. After earning a B.Sc. Hons. in Geophysics at the University of Edinburgh, she returned to the U.S. for graduate school and earned her Ph.D. in marine seismology from Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 1994. She moved to Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University in 1996 as a post-doctoral fellow and is now a Doherty Research Scientist there. Her myriad research areas include: seafloor earthquakes, hydroacoustic monitoring, mid-ocean ridges, seafloor instrumentation and the impact of anthropogenic sound on marine mammals. She is particularly enthusiastic about the link between earthquakes and life. She has participated in 25 research cruises throughout the world's oceans and loves going to sea, but loves playing with her 21-month-old son even more.

Maya attributes "the little success she has had and occasional brushes with sanity," to two wonderfully supportive parents. Her father is a scientist (underwater acoustician) and her mother a theologian, which, she says, "provides a nice balance, or at least a split personality." She lives in New York City with her brilliant son, Jason, and enjoys walking in Central Park and reading Green Eggs and Ham over and over and over again.

TORI HOEHLERM is a chemist turned oceanographer turned astrobiologist, who now works at NASA's Ames Research Center, in Mountain View, California.

Tori's life has been intertwined with the water since birth. He was born and lived in the Bahamas until age six and, according to his father, could swim well before he could walk. He did his first open-reef snorkeling at age four and was hooked forever. He subsequently became a water safety instructor and certified advanced diver. He has dived reefs, wrecks, and caverns in three oceans, for a combination of fieldwork and pleasure. After leaving the Bahamas, Tori lived in Florida for seven years and spent his summers on a lake in southern Quebec. The family moved to Germany when Tori was 13, and he spent the next four years there -- being several hours from the North Sea represented the furthest he has ever lived from the ocean. Between high school and college, Tori spent nine months sailing the Caribbean as crew on the S/S Norway -- the largest cruise ship in the world, at the time. Additional time spent at sea has taken him across the equator and across 80¼ north, and to ports in more than 30 countries. These experiences combined with a love of natural science led to a strong interest in oceanography. Following an undergraduate degree in chemistry, Tori completed a Ph.D. in marine sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His dissertation focused around fieldwork, conducted principally by SCUBA, along the North Carolina coast. This work has also led to research cruises in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic oceans.

Tori's work in oceanography aligned strongly with NASA's interest in the emerging discipline of astrobiology, and the two arrived at NASAŠAmes Research Center almost simultaneously in 1998. Tori is a permanent research scientist with NASA and a principal coinvestigator within the NASA Astrobiology Institute. His work seeks to understand how living organisms affect the chemistry of their environment (as humans do, for example, when they breathe in and out), on local and planetary scales. By seeking chemical signatures that are unique to life, this work may ultimately help in identifying worlds outside our own solar system where life may be present. Tori's work also relates to understanding how the availability of energy (the most fundamental commodity for any imaginable form of life) shapes the nature and distribution of life. Both aspects of this work focus strongly on microbial communities. Since coming to NASA, Tori has been heavily involved with education and outreach programs and frequently gives talks for school kids, teachers, and professional groups. He has given interviews for BBC TV, Tech TV, Norwegian Public TV, National Public Radio, and Earth & Sky radio, and his work has been covered in numerous newspapers, magazines, and web outlets internationally.

DR. KELLY SNOOK is a Planetary Scientist specializing in Mars science and exploration at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Most of her research focuses on designing, conducting and evaluating expeditions on Earth that serve as analogs for missions to the moon or Mars. She also studies the dust in the atmosphere of Mars using computational radiative transfer models. Her work takes her from polar deserts to island volcanos and oceanographic research vessels. She works to reduce the cost and risk of NASA's planetary exploration missions by applying lessons learned from the science, technology development, and operations research conducted at analog sites.

The expeditions of Aliens of the Deep were a remarkable analog for space exploration. In association with these expeditions, Kelly created and led the NASA Oceanographic Analog Missions Activity (NOAMA) to study elements of exploration such as traverse planning; sample collection, processing, and curation; remote science operations; exploration communications; crew time scheduling; real-time hardware design, manufacture, repair, and integration; crew psychology; and human factors. Kelly has since moved to NASA Headquarters in Washington DC to apply her knowledge of space analogs to the development of NASA's presidentially mandated "new vision for exploration" for missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

In her spare time, Kelly pursues a passionate interest in music. She enjoys music composition, production and engineering at It's Not Rocket Science Studios, which she owns and operates. She is currently working on a project to model the solar system using sound and music.

LORETTA HIDALGO has a master's degree in Biology from Caltech and a bachelor's degree in Biology from Stanford. She is the cocreator of Yuri's Night, the World Party for Space ( and is currently the President of the Space Generation Foundation. This year, she worked for the X PRIZE Foundation to create the events leading up to the Foundation's awarding their 10-million-dollar private space-flight prize to SpaceShipOne. She flew nine times as cabin crew for the parabolic flight company ZERO-G. Between degrees, Hidalgo interned at NASA in the Astronaut office, worked on the International Space Station, and served as the North American Representative to the Space Generation Advisory Council. She has spoken to children about science in Africa during the total eclipse of the Sun, worked with NASA in the Arctic looking at life in extreme environments, and studied Space Tourism in Chile with the International Space University. She is passionate about bringing together people who want to use space to make a difference for the planet.

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