James Cameron’s underwater epic The Abyss is, to this day, one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s intense, it’s funny, it’s scary, and the tale of mysterious underwater beings lurking at the bottom of an abyssal ocean trench injected awesome straight into my young nerd brain. But the production of the film was notoriously grueling for both cast and crew, with Cameron himself later admitting, “I knew this was going to be a hard shoot, but even I had no idea just how hard. I don’t ever want to go through this again.” Nearly two and a half decades after the film was released, some fascinating relics of the film’s production have turned up online: shots of the underwater sets, abandoned inside an uncompleted nuclear power plant in South Carolina.
To convincingly portray a story that unfolds mostly aboard an experimental submersible oil platform some 1,700 feet beneath the ocean’s surface, the director who would eventually declare himself “king of the world” was characteristically ambitious. As seems to have become typical for Cameron productions, some of the technology needed for the film, including “a state-of-the-art communications system that allowed the director to talk underwater to the actors.” But after searching to find an underwater tank that would be big enough for The Abyss’ needs, Cameron eventually settled on the unfinished Cherokee Nuclear Power Plant near Gaffney, South Carolina.
The production created two different tanks, one containing 7.5 million gallons of water and reaching 55 feet deep, and which housed both the Deepcore rig (seen up top) and the exterior of the downed submarine the Deepcore crew is sent to help investigate. The second, smaller tank contained 2.5 million gallons of water and was used for miniature and interior shots.
Don’t go planning any road trips to check out the sets for yourself: the sets were demolished in 2007. Thankfully the creepy location was captured for posterity in this imgur gallery, and you can learn more about the infamous shoot in the Under Pressure: Making The Abyss documentary embedded below. Now if they’d just hurry up and give The Abyss a Blu-ray release already…