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Challenger Deep as a tourist site? Modern-day Jules Vernes say 'yes'

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“Many of us grew up knowing the Disneyland ride 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. That was science fiction becoming science fact, it was our first glimpse of what lies beneath the surface of the water,” says Jeff Blumenfeld, communications director of The Explorers Club, whose membership past and present has included the first to reach the North and South poles, the first to summit Everest, and the first on the moon.

“Now you and I can go somewhere like the Bahamas and hop on a sub to see what’s down there. Kids can see a tweet from James Cameron at the bottom of the ocean, they can look at images of the Titanic mapped in 3-D. Technology is allowing us to peer into areas of this world we only dreamed about before,” he says.

The queue to claim more "firsts" is already forming behind Cameron, whose dive made him the first to journey solo to the deepest point on Earth, 52 years after US Navy Lt. Don Walsh and Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard got there in the bathyscaphe Trieste.

At Triton Submarines in Vero Beach, Fla., engineers have designed a sub that they envisage one day taking adventurers – whether ocean scientists on private missions, or commercial passengers paying as much as $250,000 a ticket for the ultimate joyride – to the Hadel depths. It is working on a reality show to chronicle its work and inspire excitement.

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