Filmmaker and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence James Cameron slides into the hatch of the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER submersible. (AP Photo/National Geographic, Mark Thiessen)
Filmmaker and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence James Cameron slides into the hatch of the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER submersible. (AP Photo/National Geographic, Mark Thiessen)

This past weekend, filmmaker James Cameron did something that has never been done before.  He took a solo trip down to the deepest part of the ocean.

In doing so, the man who gave us “Titanic” and “Avatar,” has now gone where only two men have gone before.

The last time humans made a successful voyage to the bottom of the sea was back in 1960.  Two men – Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard and Lt. Don Walsh of the U.S. Navy – took a bathyscaphe, called the Trieste, to the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

The Mariana Trench is 120 times larger than the Grand Canyon and more than a mile deeper than Mount Everest is tall.

Extreme water pressure is the biggest risk associated with diving down that deep; it’s like having three SUVs sitting on your toe.

Map showing the location of the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench (Image: Karl Musser via Wikipedia Commons)

Cameron began his solo voyage to the Challenger Deep – the deepest point of the Mariana trench located about 322 kilometers southwest of Guam – in the western Pacific Ocean on Sunday, March 25 at 1915 UTC.

He made the journey in a specially-designed submarine called Deepsea Challenger.   His trip – down some 10.89 km to the deepest of the deep – took about two-and-a-half hours.

Upon reaching the bottom, Cameron said,  “All systems OK,” according to a released statement from National Geographic, which participated in the expedition.

Lt. Don Walsh, USN, and Jacques Piccard in the bathyscaphe TRIESTE. (Photo: NOAA Ship Collection)

Cameron was supposed to spend about six hours exploring the bottom of the ocean but it was cut short, to three hours, due to a hydraulic fluid leak.

Cameron described the deepest point on Earth as looking as bleak and barren as the moon, with very little life present, according to National Geographic.

Due to equipment problems,  Cameron wasn’t able to grab as many samples on the dive as was hoped for.

Cameron did document the historic trip in High Definition 3D video and still photographs.  The video is expected to be part of a feature film that will be released to theaters and broadcast later on the National Geographic Society’s TV Channel.

Cameron’s return trip to the surface, in his bright green submersible, was much quicker than his descent, taking around 70 minutes.

He described it as a heck of a ride.

FROM VOA NEWS – Science World (formerly Our World) is VOA’s on-air and online magazine covering science, health, technology and the environment. Hosted by Rick Pantaleo, Science World‘s informative, entertaining and easy-to-understand presentation offers the latest news, features and one-on-one interviews with researchers, scientists, innovators and other news makers.

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