James Cameron Hopes to Be the First Solo Visitor to the Deepest Part of the Ocean
The director who once jokingly proclaimed himself the “king of the world” is about to become the master of the depths. If all goes to plan, James Cameron, director of the 1997 blockbuster Titanic, will soon use his own unique submersible to become the first person since 1960 to reach the deepest place in the ocean. But although most attention will be focused on the boldness of the engineering feat, his expedition includes a substantial scientific component aimed at better understanding one of the world’s most extreme and least studied environments.
“The goal of all this is not just to set records and do grandstanding dives,” Cameron told Nature just hours before heading to sea. “We want to push the envelope not only of scientific knowledge but also of engineering.”
Challenger Deep is a gash more than 10,900 metres deep in the Mariana Trench, off the coast of the Philippines in the Pacific Ocean. The first and so far only humans to make it to the bottom were Jacques Piccard, a Swiss oceanographer and engineer, and Don Walsh, then a US Navy lieutenant. They made their deep trek in the bathyscaphe Trieste, a primitive craft that went straight down and back up and has long since been decommissioned. Only unmanned remotely operated vehicles — the Japanese Kaiko in 1995 and the US Nereus in 2009 — have been to the bottom since.
Tools for the trench
Cameron built his sub, the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER, in Australia, and has not released how much money he spent on construction or the expedition. It has space for only one cramped person in its unusual 7.3-metre-tall vertical design, which streamlines the dives and ascents. A large bank of lights above the spherical cockpit will illuminate the depths for filming documentaries he’ll produce in collaboration with National Geographic.