James Cameron matches U.S. Navy record with plunge to bottom of Mariana...

James Cameron matches U.S. Navy record with plunge to bottom of Mariana Trench


Famed filmmaker James Cameron has reportedly begun his plunge to the depths of the ocean.

Mr. Cameron, who broke his own record with the world’s deepest solo submarine dive earlier this month, plunging 5.1 miles (8.2 kilometers) into the Pacific Ocean near Papua New Guinea, said early this week that his team has set sail for the Mariana Trench and is now waiting for calm weather to begin the dive. Recent reports indicate that Mr. Cameron has begun the trip down to the deepest point of the ocean.

The filmmaker will travel to the depths of the Mariana Trench, visiting Challenger Deep in the Pacific Ocean, 200 miles southwest of Guam. The director and his team have secretly planned and plotted for five years to send the Deepsea Challenger into the chasm, and he has reportedly been conducting test dives inside the one-man submersible for several weeks.

Mr. Cameron will be the first person to visit the region in nearly fifty years, and he reportedly plans to bring back data and specimens. Asked how the expedition compared to his role as a director, the filmmaker said the journey continues to bring present surprises.

“When you’re making a movie, everybody’s read the script and they know what’s going to happen next. When you’re on an expedition, nature hasn’t read the script, the ocean hasn’t read the script, and no one knows what’s going to happen next.”

Mr. Cameron is coordinating with National Geographic, which in a statement noted that the mission would “expand our knowledge and understanding of these largely unknown parts of the planet.”

Naturally, the entire expedition will be filmed as the 24-foot tall submarine is outfitted with various high-definition cameras and an eight-foot tall array of LED lighting. The submarine also includes numerous components aimed at keeping the submarine crew alive during the decent. Due to the 16,000 pound-per-square-inch pressure that exists at the bottom of the ocean, the submarine will compress by about two and a half inches during the planned 6.8-mile decent.

It remains unclear whether the mission will have any purpose outside of the scientific realm. In 1960, when U.S. Navy Lt. Don Walsh and Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard, working aboard the U.S. Navy submersible Trieste, became the only humans to have reached Challenger Deep. The duo spent just 20 minutes on the bottom, but their view was obscured by silt stirred up when they landed. Since the Trieste’s voyage, only robotic cameras have made the journey to the bottom of the Mariana Trench.
Mr. Cameron noted that he plans to spend upwards of six hours below the surface of the ocean. Mr. Cameron said he hopes his expedition will reveal more about ocean trenches, such as whether fish can live in the depths of the ocean.

It is thought that the Cameron-designed submarine could provide the U.S. Navy with vital information. It remains unclear whether Mr. Cameronw will meet with officials following the plunge. In recent months, the U.S. Navy has focused on expanding its fleet of submarines, and submarine hunters. Earlier this month, Boeing officially delivered the first production P-8A Poseidon aircraft to the U.S. Navy. The P-8A is the first of 13 anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft Boeing will deliver this year.

Mr. Cameron is not alone in his quest to return humans to the deepest and most unexplored places on the planet. A number of well-funded parties have recently sent humans to some of the deepest spots on Earth aboard a crop of submersibles. British tycoon Richard Branson’s Virgin Oceanic effort may be the best-known of the privately-funded endeavors, while countries such as Russia and China have also sent manned crafts to some of the oceans’ most inaccessible places.

The race to reach the ocean’s deepest depths come as China’s State Oceanic Administration said in a statement in 2011 that the Jiaolong undersea craft reached 13,211-feet below sea level in a test dive in the northeastern Pacific. The state news agency Xinhua quoted the administration’s director Li Cigui as saying the vessel was a “marvel” of Chinese engineering, adding that the government is planning to send submarines even deeper.

It remains unclear when Mr. Cameron will attempt the record dive. the latest adventure for the filmmaker comes as he has largely devoted the better part of a decade to deep-sea exploration after winning 11 Oscars for his 1997 film Titanic. Mr. Cameron has said his sequel to 2009′s Avatar will be set in Pandora’s fictional oceans.

The plunge is not Mr. Cameron’s first encounter with deep-sea life. His 1989 classic, The Abyss, examined a fictional crew’s exploration of the Cayman Trough, where they stumbled upon alien life far below the surface of the ocean. The filmmaker has also received critical acclaim for his films Titanic, Terminator, Terminator 2, Avatar, and Aliens.