The Abyss and liquid-breathing: for real?

Remember how Ed Harris had to breathe a liquid designed for deep sea diving in The Abyss. Is that liquid for real or just a movie invention? If real, what is it called?

Supposedly Ed Harris felt so mistreated by James Cameron during the filming that he has not spoken to him since. Makes me wonder if Cameron really made him breathe that liquid.

Well, in the author’s note for the novelization, Orson Scott Card claims it’s real.

Not only that but he says that the scene where the rat is breathing liquid is real as well. That wasn’t an effect.

No idea about Ed Harris.

In the subtitle commentary on the DVD, you learn the following (these aren’t quotes, I’m paraphrasing):

The oxygen-rich liquid they show in The Abyss is indeed real. In reality, though, it looks just like water; for the sake of the movie, they dyed it light pink so that it would look “special”. The rats did indeed breathe the stuff; you can see his little sides going in and out. The filmmakers would have liked a nice long shot of the rat breathing the stuff to really show it off, but the rats kept panicking and defecating in the fluid, so they had to chop up the scene. Breathing the fluid strips the protective mucus coating on your lungs, leaving you prone to infections; the rats received antibiotic injections, and they were fine.

Ed Harris never breathed the stuff. They experimented with a double-layered visor for the “filling the suit” scenes, but it didn’t look right, so they just filled the suit with pink-tinted water, and Ed held his breath for the duration of the shot. Seems mighty dangerous to me, but I got the impression from the commentary that it was at least partly Ed’s idea. For the underwater scenes, he got away with just wearing a pink-tinted visor.

As for what it’s called…at least one site I found says that its marketing name is “Liquivent”.

I saw a Tomorrow’s World (UK pop-science programme) that showed a rat breathing water that had a very high oxygen level. I suspect there would be problems with the auto-reflex that blocks off breathing when a liquid hits the lungs, so I guess some localised muscle relaxant needs to be used to stop that from happening.

I know its been around since the 80s at least. I remember seeing it on a show called “Thats Incredible” back then.

This has come up a couple of times in GQ.

Underwater Breathing Fluid?
Is it really possible for humans to breathe liquid oxygen, like in The Abyss?

The “rat breathing underwater scene” earned the film an “Unacceptable” rating from the American Humane Association, because: “Although the rat survived and is kept as a pet by the director, we do not feel it was necessary to subject the rat to this experiment for the purpose of filming the scene.” Ehh, whatever. At least they’re not as bad as PETA…

It certainly is real. I remember reading about it as a kid. Although Orson Scott Card noted in the afterword to his novel of The Abyss that it had first been performed in 1972, I’d swear hat I read about this in the 1960s.
Interesting pre-Abyss treatment of breathing fluorocarbon emulsion is the Hal Clement novel Ocean on Top.

I do have a question about this. The fluorocarbon fluids I’ve had personal experience with have a tendency to strip oils from the skin and leave it dry. I cringe a the thought to filling a mucus-filled lung with this stuff.

Do humans need the antibiotic shot too? I’d guess so…

A good degreasing might be the best thing for you if you were a heavy smoker. :slight_smile:

I can imagine it now: alternative health practitioners start lung drycleaning business.

I also heard of a case, please correct me if I’m wrong, where a young had nearly died in a freshwater drowning. Due to the extensive tissue damage in her lungs, a regular respirator was out of the question so they pumped the oxygen rich liquid into her lungs in order to supply her body with oxygen while at the same time allowing the lungs to heal…

Side note: During the final weeks of pregnancy, the fetus begins inhaling and exhaling the amniotic fluid…although the oxygen is still supplied by they umbilical cord, this is somewhat of a “practice run” for the lungs.

Whoops, In my above post I seemed to leave out the fact that the “young” was a young girl… also, she did, in fact, make a full recovery.

Looks like the idea’s been around since about 1962, but it’s only become a medically useful procedure(partial liquid ventilation) since about 1990 for the treatment of very premature infants and people with certain lung problems.

I kind of doubt it’s used for diving like in the movie at all, since it’s still pretty experimental.

Oddly enough, debris removal is one of the potential uses for Liquivent (perflubron)

About the casts treatment during shooting of The Abyss…

It was an extremely difficult shoot and Cameron is absolutely unrelenting in getting things perfect. I don’t know if Ed Harris and him are still persona non grata though.

The scene that nearly killed him was when he was wearing the liquid breathing suit and falling down the front of the cliff on the way to the bomb. Although he wasn’t really breathing fluid in that suit, he also wasn’t breathing air either (because there couldn’t be any visible bubbles). He had to hold his breath while they shot him falling in front of the rock wall, then safety divers would rush to him and shove a regulator in his mouth. On one take things got a little hairy when Harris ran out of breath and the divers didn’t get to him fast enough! I saw a clip of this footage on the SciFi Channel. Didn’t look like fun.