I’ve long had a passion for exploration and after spending over twenty years intensively mountain climbing, I was able to scale the "Seven Summits" as well as ski to both the North and South Poles. In 2003 I retired from the US Navy Reserve after 20 years and had developed a strong affinity for the ocean. Fortunately, I had become financially successful investing in industrial private equity and was looking for a difficult challenge that required a lot of unique resources. I happened upon an important milestone humankind had not yet accomplished: going to the bottom of all five of the world's oceans -- in 2014 we had only been to the bottom of one! After a five-year intensive effort, my team was able to precisely locate, map, and then get me down to the bottom of all five. We have continued our explorations in 2020 with dives in the Mediterranean and Red Seas and are headed back to the Pacific for more diving in the Mariana Trench. Ask me anything at all.

Proof: https://www.instagram.com/p/B_N8pIWDwRl/

Thank you to everyone for joining and asking your questions!

To follow the progress of our 2020 expedition, visit caladanoceanic.com or follow us on social @caladanoceanic!

Comments: 121 • Responses: 37  • Date: 

ProfessorDobbo25 karma

Have you found what you're looking for yet?

Caladan_Oceanic9 karma

Well, we weren't looking for anything specific. The main mission in 2019 was to technologically prove the performance and durability of the submersible Limiting Factor, and debug some things, which we did. We verified that we built the first, commercially-certified (very safe) full ocean depth, 2-person submersible that can do thousands of dives to any place on the sea floor. We are very proud to have made that technical leap.

BlueStoneArt17 karma

But have you been to the "hood" on a Saturday night?

Caladan_Oceanic2 karma

Um . . . which "hood"?

hasanyoneseenjoe7 karma

What's more challenging - scaling mountains or diving?

Caladan_Oceanic7 karma

They're totally different. Subs are technically demanding and require an enormous amount of organization, planning, engineering, and concentration. But physically it isn't that hard at all. Mountain climbing is often just a pure physical and mental flogging, day after day. And nothing is more miserable than being wet and cold. So overall, mountain climbing is tougher - you can be out in the high altitudes for weeks or months and never really get warm. Yeah, it's punishing up there. Diving is much more mental.

BlueStoneArt6 karma

What is the meaning of life?

Caladan_Oceanic18 karma


Yoguls5 karma

What next?

Caladan_Oceanic3 karma

I would very, very much love to go into Space. (I know, shocker.)

SamTheGinger2 karma

What is the weirdest thing you've found so far?

Caladan_Oceanic11 karma

Oh, definitely the stalked ascidian or "sea squirt" that one of the landers filmed in the Indian Ocean. Totally bizarre-looking creature that floated by. They aren't supposed to be a moving species, but there it was. Even had a little "child" (we think) at the base of its stalk. There are pictures of it on the internet now. Totally wild. When we first saw it in the control room, my Chief Scientist and I looked at each other and literally said, "What the hell is that?"

Zachman972 karma

Did u find out how far down the bar is? Did you get the chance to raise it?

For anyone that doesn’t understand the South Park reference


Caladan_Oceanic3 karma

Oh my, a South Park reference. Well, I will just say that I have immense respect for Mr. Cameron and we would not have been able to build what we built, and do what we did, without him and his team showing the way technologically on many fronts. And his technology was years earlier than mine, so I think it was more dangerous - what he did. He deserves a lot of respect for undertaking the project, seeing it through, and piloting the sub down.

amestisog2 karma

What is it like at the bottom of the ocean? I imagine it would be the experience of a life time.

How long did it take to get to the bottom of each ocean?

Caladan_Oceanic5 karma

It was really extraordinary. Only three other people had ever been there the first time I went and the years of technical work to design and build the sub, assemble a team, refit an ocean exploration ship -- to have it all come together and then be the pilot at the controls was just awesome. I feel very, very privileged to have had many advantages in life, and being born here in America, to even have the chance to do it. I honestly felt like a kid when I got down there. Here I am, at the bottom of the ocean, by myself, in a submarine. "Let's go drive around a bit," I thought. It took four hours each way (up and down) to get to the very bottom of the ocean, half that to the bottom of the Arctic. Basically, it takes about an hour for every 2,500 meters you go down or up. Same speed (roughly) up and down.

amestisog1 karma

That is so amazing! Which was your favourite ocean to dive?

Caladan_Oceanic4 karma

I have to confess that I really enjoyed diving in the Southern Ocean, near Antarctica. It was so remote and no one had ever been there - not even close - that it really felt like going to another planet. There was a lot of wildlife on the way down and penguins + whales on the surface (as well as icebergs), and a rocky, interesting bottom. So, yeah, in many ways I thought it was kind of the coolest ocean to dive.

Beneath-the-waves1 karma

Where will your exploration take you next?

Caladan_Oceanic1 karma

We are gearing up to go back to the Mariana Trench around June 5th of this year. I hope to do up to 8 dives in all three sections of it, and actually do a physical survey of its topography along with other scientific research. Then we will do a bunch of "first dives" into Deeps north of Saipan in the Mariana Trench that are very focused on science and mapping for NOAA and GEBCO. In late July, I am going to try and execute the deepest wreck dive ever attempted off the coast of the Philippines. So, a busy summer. Check out our progress at www.caladanoceanic.com

diamondfound1 karma

How is the plastic waste at the bottom of the oceans and the top of the mountains? Did you collect any samples of material from the bottom of the oceans?

Caladan_Oceanic2 karma

I tried to grab the small piece of plastic I saw at the bottm of the Challenger Deep but it was too small, flimsy, and my sub is 12-tons heavy and doesn't exactly turn on a dime. Plus it can kick up dust on the bottom when you use the thrusters extensively. It was like an elephant trying to chase and capture a piece of paper - in the water. Ah well. I tried. The waste on top of Everest is much different - less plastic and more metal (used oxygen cylinders) or tissue paper. We did collect water samples from every deep place we went, and soil samples in several. The scientists are really interested in all the things we can't see with the naked eye, like microplastics or bacteria and viruses. Those, fortuantely, are captured in the water samplers.

BlueStoneArt1 karma

How much of the ocean floor is still unexplored? Why do you think we haven't reached all of it yet?

Caladan_Oceanic1 karma

Most scientists will say that the oceans are "about 90%" unexplored although I've heard 80%, 95%, a range. But the reason we haven't reached it all is because it is big, I mean really big. 70% of the Earth is under the water - by far, most of it. And most of that is around 4,000 meters deep which is a really hostile environment. So . . . hard to get to, hard to move around in, and in a very brutal environment . . that explains why we haven't physically been there. That is why we built this submersible - to start chipping away at that. At least at potentially the most interesting parts.

ninja_tree_frog1 karma

How on earth did you find all that?!? I can barely afford the deep dive package at my local resort! For real though, with deep dive subs, how do you manage the pressure differences at depth? And how does knowledge of pressures at depth relate to pressures at altitude?

Caladan_Oceanic2 karma

Well, the 90 millimeters of titanium between me and ocean allows the inside of the pilot/passenger compartment to stay at a constant 1 atmosphere. So you don't notice the changes in pressure at all when diving. No need for any change in atmospheric composition (like adding helium, etc.) and no chance of getting "the bends." Pressure works pretty much the same for a plane or a sub, it's just that you're dealing with air pressure in the air and water pressure going down. Water pressure is much more predictable than air pressure, of course. But it is a massive difference. From the surface to outer space you go from one atmosphere to zero. In the sub, at the Challenger Deep, you go from one atmosphere on the surface to over 1,000 atmospheres at full depth. Designing equipment that can survive, repeatedly, to that depth and back, again and again, is very difficult but we think we have it figured out. So far, at least!

fallingcave1 karma

So hypothetically, if during your travels you got stranded/stuck and had to survive, would you eat one of your team members?

Caladan_Oceanic3 karma

Well, you can go without food for two weeks and we'd run out of oxygen after four days, so that decision would not have to be made. Thank heavens.

Vindicare6051 karma

How would you rank the Seven Summits in terms of difficulty? Obviously everyone knows about Everest but I'm curious about the other ones that don't get talked about as often. I've heard Denali is especially difficult.

Caladan_Oceanic2 karma

I believe that Everest is the hardest, I think, because it takes so much preparation to get your body in shape, and then the whole expedition takes two months. It is just a lot of physical punishment to get to the top safely, so yes, in aggregate, I would say Everest was the hardest. The Vinson Massif in Antarctica was of course the hardest to get to, and Carstenz Pyramid in New Guinea might just be more dangerous than Everest, just because there are no medical facilities there of any kind, and you have to hike in and out through incredibly thick, wet jungle just to get to the mountain's base. If you get hurt on Carstensz, it can be more dangerous than Everest because there is no medical tent or doctors unless you bring one with you.

billbixbyakahulk1 karma

Which mountain was the toughest to climb? The most "fun"? The one that felt the most dangerous?

Caladan_Oceanic1 karma

Everest was the toughest to climb (see other question), while Kilimanjaro might have been the most fun - maybe because it was my first big mountain and I really got hooked on climbing there. The one that -felt- the most dangerous was Carstenz's Pyramid because there were a few places, that were not that safe, where we had to free climb. And there was no access to medical care if you got in an accident, and it was 4-5 days of vicious hiking through the densest jungle you'll ever see to get back to a semblance of civilization. Carstenz, I think, is underrated in terms of risk.

Sukarett01 karma

Yesterday at night I asked myself if someone could dive to thw bottom of the sea and omgg I found you :) Congrats! Sadly you also found garbage there :( Would you like to start a project to clean the sea? Greetings from Mexico :D

Caladan_Oceanic2 karma

Cleaning the sea, unfortunately, is really, really, really hard. It is just so enormous and once stuff gets in there, it is really hard to get out. I think, for me at least, the most important thing is just to make sure contamination never gets into the ocean in the first place. (And Viva Mexico! I'm your neighbor up here in Texas!)

taco_bout_fit1 karma

What is the most interesting thing you've seen down there?

Caladan_Oceanic8 karma

I'd have to say a little holothurian - a sea cucumber, which was the first life I saw at the bottom of the Challenger Deep. I was worried that I may not see any visible life, but within 15 minutes, there he was. A transparent, etheral little guy swimming away for me, just looking for his lunch. Here we were, in this brutal environment of 16,000 psi and no light, cold as heck, and this was his home. It was really cool to see him (it?) there.

anon-91 karma

What was your rate in the Navy?

Caladan_Oceanic4 karma

I was an Intelligence Officer for 20 years. I received a direct commission as an Ensign (the lowest rank an officer can have) and eventually was promoted through the ranks to retire as a Commander (O-5, or equivalent of a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army or Air Force).

yakshack1 karma

Hey, I just read your profile in Outside magazine (I'm behind few months) - exciting stuff!

What's the most difficult part of carrying out these dives?

Edit: updated to Q that hasn't been asked

Caladan_Oceanic1 karma

Surprisingly, maybe the most difficult part of these expeditions is getting permits to take biological samples from the trenches. The trenches are almost always in some country's EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) and they have the right to govern marine research in that area (200 nautical miles from their shoreline). They want to keep a tight grip on any scientifically useful information, and the officials in most agencies are very, very slow to issue permits and require mountains of information to allow us to dive - and we are even doing it for free and agree to share everything! It is just so easy, and far less risky, for them to say no. I have learned, unfortuantely, that even though everyone seems to love to talk about fostering ocean exploration, the officials in charge of granting permits do just the opposite. They are actually greatly hindering exploration in very many instances. Plus, you often have to talk to many, many agencies and get sign off instead of just one, and any one of them can veto a research permit. I can't tell you how many research dives I have wanted to do I had to cancel because I wasn't given a permit to dive and collect biological samples to share with the world. It really is tragic.

Varvatos_Vex1 karma

How much did all that cost?

Caladan_Oceanic2 karma

A lot. A whole lot.

Senappi1 karma

What is your favourite band and why is it the Ramones?

Caladan_Oceanic2 karma

Haha. The Ramones are great, but my favorite band of all time is Rush, from Canada. The Eagles are a close second, along with Peter Gabriel.

oceantech_unlocked1 karma

Other than the depth/pressure, is the bottom of the Mariana Trench characteristically unique from other locations you have dived? Is the seafloor sandy, clay or something else?

Caladan_Oceanic1 karma

Each ocean floor is a bit different. The Challenger Deep was sandy, fine sand, actually. But it wasn't "mushy" like in the Puerto Rico trench. In the Puerto Rico trench, the sub almost sank down 12-16 inches into the bottom because it was so (unexepctedly) soft. But at Challenger Deep, the sub came to rest on what was actually quite a firm surface, it sank maybe only a few inches. It was pretty smooth. However, the bottom of the Southern Ocean was quite rocky, by comparison.

A_Drake1 karma

Was there any - or the possibility of - danger of the sub getting stuck in that mushy bottom?

Caladan_Oceanic1 karma

Not the sub . . . it has a tremendous amount of thrust capability, so I could have "blasted" out of anything, pretty much. However, one of the landers did get stuck in the muck at the bottom. It was down there for two days, lost most of its battery power, but we sent the submarine back down to find it, and when they did, they jostled it loose and it floated back to the surface! It was the deepest marine recovery/salvage operation in history - or ever will be - since the lander was at the very bottom of the Challenger Deep.

KingofRNav1 karma

Fantastic Story and incredible background you have Commander! Truly a Christopher Columbus of the 21st century. Do you plan to dive the Mariana Trench again soon and when? Also, there are rumors that you are an accomplished jet pilot. When and where did you learn to fly jets? You must be very talented and had some fabulous instruction along the way in order to accomplish so many things at one time!

Caladan_Oceanic1 karma

Yes, we are off to re-dive the Mariana Trench (several areas of it) from June 5th - mid-July. We will also be mapping a lot of it for the first time in cooperation with NOAA. It will be a very intense and exciting trip. And yes, I became a certified jet pilot (in an Embraer Phenom 100) two years ago. I've always been lucky to have great flight instructors and it made it really easy to learn how to "fly" a submersible. Flying a jet is far, far more challenging (and less forgiving) than "flying" a sub. But a helicopter is even harder, if you ask me, especially if the engine quits.

billbixbyakahulk1 karma

What was the process of building the deep sea vehicles? How do you go about finding the engineering and build talent for such a thing? And why does each new mission of this type seem to start over and build something new, as opposed to reusing or refining existing designs? (Or, is that just what it seems like from the outside). Put another way, why is there no Saturn V or Space Shuttle template for this sort of thing?

Caladan_Oceanic2 karma

Oh, it was difficult. I did a lot of research online to try and figure out who might be able to build it, and found the team at Triton submarines and their partner, DarkOcean, over in the UK. Fortuantely, there was a very gifted team of designers, fabricators, and technicians that figured it all out and had been itching to do this for quite some time. I went down in one of their conventional subs on a dive and met them all, and based on some initial discussions, figured it was possible. I also visited James Cameron's Deepsea Challenger sub at Woods Hole and examined it. The idea was to keep building on what had been done before to make an even more capable, and safe, system. We did build one previous tech, but a lot of things were new. Maybe the reason so much seems new is because so few attempts to do this are done and therefore the leaps in tech look more pronounced. There are also different design requirements for each sub - we were prioritizing a two-person cockpit, commercial certification, reusability, etc. so that made us go in different directions than others. But there are so many variables that designers can choose to go different routes. I mean, heck, we've had automobiles for 100 years and still look at the incredible variety we have!

mystiquetur1 karma

Firstly, congrats! All of that is awesome! Secondly, what has been the top experience out of all you’ve done?

Caladan_Oceanic2 karma

Wow, that's tough, because they are all so -different-. I mean, climbing Everest is very different than going to the bottom of the Ocean, or solo flying a plane or helo for the first time. They are all just really great. But to be completely honest, making it to the top of Everest - as physically and mentally punishing as it is, and on my second try - really did feel fantastic. It was a much more visceral sense of accomplishment than going to the bottom of the sea. But don't get me wrong, going to the bottom of the Challenger Deep was extraordinary. I let out a huge sigh of relief when I got to the bottom and everything was okay with the sub.

oceantech_unlocked1 karma

Can you describe the submarine features? Does it have sampling ability and if so what is the payload? Does the sub dive with pitch weights?

Caladan_Oceanic2 karma

The sub, like most deep diving subs, works on a counterweight principle. So we have small weights we can drop when we get close to the seafloor to get us neutrally buoyant when we get there. When we want to come up, we drop the big "surfacing weight" and that makes us positively buoyant. The weights are regular steel and will rust away over time, like all other metal released into the ocean - so it is bio-friendly. The sub itself can capture a water sample and maybe some small rocks in a basket below its manipulator arm, but the main way we try to retrieve things is to use the manipulator to put things into one of three robotic "landers" that go down with the sub. They have baskets the size of a small crate and we can load up 10-15 pounds of rocks or other items if we desire, then they come up on their own. The landers capture biological samples with baited traps, water and sediment samples, so the landers do the heavy lifting in terms of scientific recovery. Oh - they are also my navigation beacons on the bottom. The sub is the primary exploration vehicle since it can move around (a lot) while the landers can't. The sub is also the main filming asset with 3-4 high-definition cameras and, starting this summer, a full-ocean-depth 4K camera (the first one ever) so we are trying to see and film everything we can from within the sub.

A_Drake1 karma

Where and how do you spend your time between ship transits?

Caladan_Oceanic1 karma

I fly back to my home in Texas where I do my "day job," helping to run a large private equity firm that makes investments and improves companies that are primarily involved in manufacturing. My specialty is aerospace, defense, and electronics firms.

oceantech_unlocked1 karma

Despite your experience, do you get jitters before a dive?

Caladan_Oceanic2 karma

"Jitters?" Not really. I mean, closing that hatch and knowing you are going far, far beyond the crush depth of any military submarine, ah . . . -focuses- you a little bit. But I have such faith in the safety of the submersible and all of our emergency procedures if something did go wrong, that no, I don't really get jitters. Maybe I did just a little before the first dive to the bottom of the Challenger Deep (who wouldn't?), but after I did it twice, going past 10,000 meters didn't get me that nervous at all.

oceantech_unlocked1 karma

I am a sea-going technician and ROV pilot with the goal of becoming a submarine pilot (I want to be responsible for bringing scientists safely to the bottom of the ocean for direct observation and back). I'm learning everything I can think of to learn about ocean tech - can you give me a piece of advice for making my dreams happen?

Caladan_Oceanic2 karma

Be a great handyman/woman. The ocean is a very, very unforgiving place and the best technicians (which is how you have to start out, unless you pay for everything like I did) can fix anything or figure anything mechanical out. My sub tech crew is like a MacGyver A-Team. If you can service and maintain a sub well, you will know how it all works, which is essential for being a great pilot. Get a degree if you can, maybe mechanical engineering with a minor in ocean studies or similar, and then try to get on with one of the (few) makers of subs or ROVs. And get out there best you can on an expedition!

monster4life2311 karma

Have you learned anything about yourself through these accomplishments which you did not know beforehand?

Caladan_Oceanic2 karma

Sure, you learn a great deal about yourself. I imagine the biggest thing I learned is that if you never give up, are willing to take some big risks, and assemble a great team around you - you really can do some extraordinary things. They are just hard. But I have learned that most people (99%?) never really meet their full potential. We, as humans, are capable of far, far more than we give ourselves credit for but lassitude, uncertainty, doubt, distractions . . . these all get in the way of becoming what we hope are the best versions of ourselves. Just never give up - we are all far more resilient than we give ourselves credit for. That is maybe what I learned most about myself, and other people as well.

Beneath-the-waves1 karma

Given all of your great achievements and experiences, if you could go back in time, what advice would you give to your younger self?

Caladan_Oceanic1 karma

Hmmm. Good question. Had to think about that one. I have to say one thought that came to mind was "Buy and hold Amazon stock at IPO. . . " - but financial hindsight aside, I would have said: "You're on the right track - keep putting in the hours of work, and study, and like you're doing, try doing different things. It'll all work out great. . . Oh, and don't ever invest in the nursery (tree and shrub growing) business."

reverber81 karma

What would you tell someone with extreme fear of deep water?

Caladan_Oceanic2 karma

It's a logical fear. But "Fear is the mind-killer . . ." (Sorry, I couldn't help make a reference to the sci-fi novel Dune). But a -lot- of life, I think, is training yourself to overcome your fears. We dominate this planet because of our extraordinary minds. Animals are hostage to their fears, but humans need not be. Attack your fears, a small piece at a time, until you have disciplined your mind to acknowledge them, but not let them dominate you. Therein is the path to true freedom and, I think, happiness. Sorry if let some of my Buddhist philosophy creep in there.

Sukarett01 karma

Also! Yesterday I investigated too that here in Mexico there’s a “ghost island” called Bermeja Island. Are you interested in discovering the truth of ghost islands? (Sandy Island is another example).

Caladan_Oceanic2 karma

Well, my system is primarily designed for ultra-deep ocean exploration. Finding something like Bermeja, or investigating that area, I believe could be done with surface ships and more readily-available submersibles that can go to shallow depths (<1,000 or 2,000 meters). I am always excited about discovering new truths, but not sure my diving system is best suited for that particular mission.

jocknmystyle0 karma

Did you ever smoke?

Caladan_Oceanic1 karma

Nope. I'm allergic to smoke.

americanrasputin0 karma

Do we have a better chance at finding intelligent life at the bottom of the ocean than we would in space?

Caladan_Oceanic8 karma

Probably space, just because of the math. I mean, space includes every possible exoplanet in the universe, many of which could maybe be a bit like Earth. But the bottom of the ocean is under crushing pressure and freezing temperatures. This probably precludes development of a spinal column or cerebral cortex, so I doubt you can get much intelligent life in those conditions. So I would bet on finding it in space. (By the way, I named one of my dogs 'Rasputin' (who has since passed away) - re: your handle)