McConaghy was approached in 2010 to assist the explorer-filmmaker James Cameron and his engineering partner, Ron Allum, with the complex construction of the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER submersible, a submarine capable of diving to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in the Western Pacific, eleven kilometres down at the deepest part of the worlds oceans - with Cameron himself onboard as sole pilot, this had never been achieved before.
The challenges involved in this project were immense. The pressures involved at these extreme depths meant any faults or voids in the materials or construction process could prove catastrophic. During a three-month period, McConaghy developed a solution for bonding more than two hundred and fifty sections of the submersible's core-buoyancy material - an extremely hard and high-strength composite foam structure innovated by Cameron's team called ISOFLOAT® and forming the 5.8m main structure of the submersible. This beam had to be constructed to withstand 16,500 psi (114MPa) of sea pressure - allowing the main beam to become massively compressed at its record-breaking depth at the base of the Mariana Trench, resulting in the submersible becoming 60mm shorter than it is at sea-level.
DEEPSEA CHALLENGE Gallery
Having overcome the problem of bonding the core buoyancy materials, McConaghy continued to work closely with the Acheron Project, Cameron's and Allum's Sydney-based team, fabricating 95% of all composites in the project, including the main beam thruster units, doors, access panels and battery housings.
Cameron and Allum spoke with McConaghy just days before the submersible left Sydney for sea-trials. They were delighted with both McConaghy's commitment to the project and its engineering capabilities. "It's safe to say we couldn't have done this without the McConaghy team," said Cameron.
In 2012 McConaghy was part of the team that was awarded the Australian International Design Award of the Year due to their significant involvement with the project. The award recognised the collaborative approach by James Cameron, Ron Allum Acheron Projects, Finite Elements, Design + Industry.
James Cameron accepted the award on behalf of the design group.
“It’s an incredible honour” said Cameron “the fabrication, construction, testing through to the sea trials took seven months, which is really, really incredible, a tribute to the capability of this Sydney based team.
“They came up with incredibly innovative solutions to the problems.... they sought new techniques, things that had never been done before” continued Cameron. “I owe myself, my safety in their hands and I trusted them, when they bolted the hatch closed and I descended, I knew the vehicle was right, it was well designed and well executed...I could not be prouder of this team, they made history” said Cameron.