On Monday morning, James Cameron completed his historic journey to the Mariana Trench – the deepest point on the planet. The director of such blockbuster movies as Titanic and Avatar dove almost seven miles under the surface of the Pacific Ocean and spent three hours filming the dark seabed. For Cameron, the dive is the culmination of a lifelong fascination with the oceans. He began incorporating themes of the deep sea in his 1989 move The Abyss, and after the 1997 release of Titanic, followed that up with a documentary on the Titanic’s wreck in 2003. Meanwhile, he has made 73 trips far beneath the ocean’s surface and will follow today’s historic milestone with more ventures into the Mariana Trench.
The dive in the “Deepsea Challenger” took seven years from conception to completion. Cameron himself participated in the submarine’s 30 foot design. High tech “syntactic foam” had to protect him from an intense pressure of eight tons per square inch, the equivalent of three large SUVs on one big toe. The vessel was designed similar to a torpedo so that Cameron could quickly submerge and resurface. For safety, he had enough oxygen to last him 56 hours. To help withstand the cramped conditions in a sphere no more than four feet across, the 57-year-old Cameron ramped up his running and yoga schedules to keep him more flexible.
The trip had a dual purpose to provide footage for Cameron’s future documentaries, as well as for scientific research. The National Geographic Society, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the University of Hawaii are among the organizations participating in the project.
Cameron described what he saw as almost a lunar landscape. He did not see any marine life larger than an inch long. Upon surfacing, his submarine contracted and became almost three inches shorter.
With nations losing interest in space exploration because of the costs, look for the deep ocean to become the new final frontier. While Cameron plans more dives in the Pacific, Richard Branson will pursue ocean exploration with a trip to the bottom of the Atlantic.