At the end of The Abyss all the characters are brought to the surface of the sea from deep below. They should suffer terrible decompression but they're all fine? It's even addressed by the characters:

Lindsey Brigman: We should be dead. We didn't decompress.

Alan "Hippy" Carnes: They musta done something to us.

What could the aliens have possibly done to stop the effects of decompression?


2 Answers 2


The novelization by Orson Scott Card actually explains this:

Card wrote the aliens as a colonizing species which preferentially sought high-pressure deepwater worlds to build their ships as they traveled further into the galaxy.

Their knowledge of neuroanatomy and nanoscale manipulation of biochemistry was responsible for many of the deus ex machina aspects of the film;

  • an NTI saved a diver's life after a breathing mixture accident,

  • prevented permanent brain damage during Bud's 2 mile dive, which allowed him to properly disarm the warhead,

  • a number of NTIs microscopically infiltrated the crew upon their rise to the surface to prevent decompression sickness.

(NTI = non-terrestrial intelligence)

It was James Cameron himself who wanted Orson Scott Card to write the novelization, because he wanted it to be

not just a “book of the script,” but a real science fiction novel.

Orson Scott Card was given the opportunity to visit the set, talk to the people involved in the production, and was even able to watch a rough cut of the film instead of just working off the script alone.

Orson Scott Card:

  • I also had a few chances to work with (producer) Gale Anne Hurd, who was incredibly supportive during some key decisions, most notably the need for me to completely explain the NTIs. As a science fiction writer, I knew that this would be essential to making the novel a good novel by sci-fi standards.

    So Mr. Cameron’s desire to leave them quite mysterious in the film could not be carried over into the novel; on the contrary, the whole point of a novelization is to be able to tell the readers things that can’t be shown in the film.


You quoted what I was going to reference in my answer already! This seems to me like a perfect example of Lampshade Hanging which is :

the writers' trick of dealing with any element of the story that threatens the audience's Willing Suspension of Disbelief, whether a very implausible plot development, or a particularly blatant use of a trope, by calling attention to it and simply moving on.

As to what the aliens could have done they could have beamed all the nitrogen out of the humans (and mouse!) They would also have to beam out some of the other pressurized gasses. Probably a little bit at a time as they brought everyone up. They did show themselves to have a higher level of technology than we have (example the control of water when providing a room for Virgil to breath in).

I don't know if they used "beaming" technology, and have nothing to back that up, but it is possible which is what the question asks. :)

  • Wouldn't it be rather easy to bind excess gas in the blood stream? Apr 18, 2014 at 15:00
  • @CeesTimmerman Bind it to what exactly?
    – AidanO
    Apr 23, 2014 at 17:18
  • This study looks promising: "These results demonstrate that red blood cells encapsulating hydrogenase and FAD act as a system for continuous H2 consumption in a mammalian tissue without addition of exogenous factors, and such cells may provide a biotherapeutic method for reducing the risk and treatment of decompression sickness." Nitrogenase might also work. Apr 24, 2014 at 9:42
  • Lots of big words in the study ;) I have to ask how do you get the "hydrogenase enzyme" or the "Nitrogenase" into the bloodstream for this to work?
    – AidanO
    Apr 24, 2014 at 11:35
  • Injection should work. H2-rich saline protects against excess oxygen. Apr 24, 2014 at 12:17

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .