Posted: Mar 22 2012
HOLLYWOOD – Director of the Titanic and Avatar movies, James Cameron is on the first solo mission to the deepest point in the world’s oceans armed with 3D cameras.
He set out from the Pacific island of Guam for the Mariana Trench, descending more than 10 kilometers (6 miles) in a lime-green reinforced submersible built amid great secrecy in Australia over the past eight years.
The Deepsea Challenger weighs 11 tonnes and during the nine-hour mission Cameron, 57, is having to stand hunched in a meter-wide space, controlling movements with a joystick.
The submarine weighs is capable of traveling to depths 1000 times the pressure of the surface.
The director said: “The deep trenches are the last unexplored frontier on our planet, with scientific riches enough to fill a hundred years of exploration.”
Some have accused him of ego-driven grandstanding. But Cameron says there will be a valuable scientific element to his extreme dive.He is collecting animals, rocks, water and sediment using a robotic arm. The rocks will be analyzed by geologists seeking to understand the movement of tectonic plates and bacteria will be studied by scientists seeking to discover how life survives in extreme conditions.
The Mariana Trench is located off the Philippines and reaches its maximum depth at a point called Challenger Deep. The pressure there is more than 1000 times that at the surface.
The only mission ever made there, by the US navy in 1960, resulted in Jacques Piccard, a Swiss oceanographer, and Don Walsh, a US navy lieutenant, reaching the bottom.
They reported seeing “snuff-colored ooze”, a shrimp and a flatfish. Scientists have disputed whether a fish could have been living at such a depth.
Cameron’s preparations were conducted in secret as several rival projects were vying to get there first. Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Oceanic one-man submarine is likely to dive to the same spot later this year, carrying pilot Chris Welsh.
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