Filmmaker James Cameron to explore the deepest depths of the ocean
March 8th, 2012
08:40 AM ET

Filmmaker James Cameron to explore the deepest depths of the ocean

From CNN's Jason Carroll

Oscar-winning director James Cameron, known for breaking box office records, is now aiming for underwater dominance. The filmmaker, who's known for his blockbuster hits such as "Titanic" and “Avatar,” is taking the dive of his life into the deepest waters in the world.

He’s hoping to reach Challenger Deep, the deepest known point in the world's oceans,  later this month.  The site is part of the Mariana Trench near Guam in the western Pacific.

Last week, CNN got rare access inside Cameron’s high-tech single-pilot submersible, the Deepsea Challenger, which was constructed by Cameron and his team of scientists and engineers over the past eight years. Cameron has released little information about the vessel, which was built in Australia.

The director and his team have secretly planned and plotted for five years to send the Deepsea Challenger into the chasm. He has been conducting test dives inside the one-man submersible for several weeks.  In a joint scientific project with the National Geographic Society, scientists and engineers have joined Cameron’s team in this deep sea endeavor.

Overheard on CNN.com: Your thoughts about the expedition

During one of his final test dives for the mission, the filmmaker descended more than 26,000 feet in the Solomon Sea just south of Papua New Guinea.

Outfitted with special cameras and robotic arms, Deepsea Challenger is able to dive vertically at speeds of 500-700 feet per minute and can withstand immense pressure - up to 16,000 pounds per square inch.

When the submersible hatch closes, the temperature inside rises “like a sauna,” said Cameron, who began his descent in shorts and a t-shirt.  Later, he layers up, with the temperatures dropping to freezing the further down he goes.

Being uncomfortable and cramped in a small space for hours is well worth it, he said.

"It’s so exciting - every second you see something cool or you've got something to do or you're photographing or you see some amazing fish,"Cameron told CNN.

At more than 10,900 meters (35,800 feet), the Mariana Trench is deeper than Mount Everest is tall, and has had only two previous human visitors. In 1960, U.S. Navy Lt. Don Walsh and the late Swiss explorer Jacques Piccard descended into the deep in the Bathyscaphe Trieste, a deep submersible vessel.

Click here for a look inside the Mariana Trench

Scientists hope that Challenger Deep will provide insight into many unfamiliar life forms in the depths of the ocean.  It is estimated that more than 750,000 marine species have not been formally described in scientific literature over the centuries, triple the number of those that have been. The figures exclude microbes, of which a 2010 marine life census estimates there are up to 1 billion kinds.

Read more about the 2010 marine life census

It's not the first adventure for Cameron, who has been a lifetime explorer of the sea.  It’s a passion he brought to the screen in 1989 with his undersea adventure, "The Abyss," in which oceanographers find alien life at the unexplored depths of the ocean.   His interest in the sea also influenced the making of his two highest-grossing movies, "Titanic" (1997) and "Avatar" (2009).  In addition to his dive to the Titanic wreck, Cameron's exquisite creatures on the planet Pandora in "Avatar" were inspired by real-life sea creatures seen during his diving ventures.

Two other men are also attempting to reach Challenger Deep: billionaire businessman and adventurer Richard Branson and Patrick Lahey, an experienced submarine pilot.

Last year, Branson announced plans to explore the deepest part of the ocean with his airplane-shaped Virgin Oceanic sub.

"I am planning to go down in the Puerto Rican trench. It goes down further than Everest is high ... about 28,000 feet," Branson said last year. "There have been about 400 people who have been into space but pretty well nobody has been down and explored the big trenches in the oceans."

Read more about Branson's mission

Lahey, the president of a small central Florida company called Triton Submarines, is also hoping to reach Challenger Deep.  Lahey is described on his company's website as "the most experienced civil sub pilot active in the world today."

The nonprofit X-Prize Foundation has announced it will award a $10 million prize to the first person to reach the bottom of the Mariana Trench.  Cameron told CNN he’s not interested in competing for this prize, or any other, because his mission is purely about scientific research.

“You know, there’s so much we don’t know,” Cameron told CNN. “I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to study the ocean before we destroy it.”

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Filed under: Discoveries • Ocean exploration • On Earth
soundoff (418 Responses)
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    March 2, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
  2. Darkness Prince

    Excellent article! Bonne contination à vous 🙂

    July 17, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
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    April 29, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  4. Tim

    Big Deal, I put on my trunks last week and swam down there (without flippers)

    March 9, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • Tim

      when I got down there I shook hands with............wait for it............Chuck Norris

      March 9, 2012 at 11:10 am |
  5. JS

    Cameron's pretending to be a scientist now...how quaint.

    March 9, 2012 at 8:27 am |
  6. SKY

    MY BOAT WILL BE IN THE WATERS TO WATCH THIS WONDERFUL EVENT!
    MY FRIENDS ARE FLYING IN, THIS IS THE BEST PLACE FOR A VACATION......
    CAMERON KNOWS THIS IS THE BEST PLACE EVER.
    THERE ARE RESORTS ON THE ISLAND AND YOU CAN VISIT SOME OF THE OTHERS
    ISLAND, THE PEOPLE HERE ARE THE BEST IN THE WORLD...THEY JUST LOVE PEOPLE
    THEY ARE KIND, CONSIDERATE, LOVING, HELPFUL .
    THE LOCAL ON THE ISLAND KNOW HOW TO LIVE AND ENJOY THEMSELVES..
    I AM JUST TOO EXCITED....WOW!

    March 9, 2012 at 4:35 am |
  7. The Question

    Maybe he is really just delusional and is hopeing to see the creatures from the movie he directed "The Abyss".

    March 9, 2012 at 2:25 am |
  8. SKY

    FACT: FINALLY SOMEONE COMES TO SAIPAN...THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACE IN THE WORLD......
    OCEAN VIEW APARTMENT UNDER $500.00 A MONTH....AMERICAN TERRITORY
    LITTLE CRIME, A BEAUTIFUL PLACE TO RETIRE....I THINK I WILL TAKE A BOAT
    OUT THE DAY HE GOES IN THE OCEAN....THE BEST KEPT SECRET IN THE WORLD...
    THE WEATHER 80 TO 85 EVERY SINGLE DAY....MANGO,BREAD FRUIT, YOU CAN EVEN
    GET CLOTHES DESIGNED AND NAME THE PRICE....
    IN THESE OCEANS PEOPLE FISH AND DIVE ALL THE TIME, SOMETIME EVEN WITH THE
    SHARKS AND RARELY DOES ANYTHING HAPPENS...IT JUST GOING TO BE LOSS OF FUN...
    SO THEY WILL HAVE THE FLAME TREE FESTIVAL. ALL THE TREES WILL BLOOM RED
    FLOWERS AND THERE WILL BE LOTS OF DANCING, EATING AND JUST PEOPLE ENJOYING
    EACH OTHERS. MANY STARS COME HERE JUST TO GET AWAY AND THINK....NO ONE
    FOLLOWS THEM, WE DON'T CARE CAUSE WE GOT IT ALL....

    March 9, 2012 at 1:19 am |
  9. cajuntide

    What he gets on film should be awsome to see.

    March 8, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
  10. Susan

    I hope he makes a Captain Nemo, Jules Verne type, 3D movie, now that would be hot!

    March 8, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
  11. Dave

    As long as I'm not paying for his trip he can go where he wants to go in the sub.

    March 8, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
  12. Dbag

    I bet he finds Oprah's summer house down there.

    March 8, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
  13. Andy H

    Love this, "Go Deep" good luck guys hope you make it back safe!

    March 8, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
  14. AJM3

    Countdown to this underwater death......

    March 8, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
  15. rubencat

    Henry David Thoreau wrote: "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.

    Mr. Cameron is simply following his dreams. Oh, how I would love to ride along!

    March 8, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  16. ZombieHunter2012

    Wow...is this for a sequel to The Abyss?? lol great movie!

    March 8, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  17. AGAIN???

    We read this the FIRST time you ran this article LAST week.

    March 8, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  18. Lovecraft Foundation

    ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn translates roughly to: In his house at R'lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming. Hey man, don't mess with Cthulhu, either.

    March 8, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Dave

      мудак

      March 8, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
  19. nsaidi

    There were some nice comments on this post. I featured a few in a regular feature called "Overhead on CNN.com." Of note to me were the comments about the future of exploration, and the part of humanity that seeks to find new frontiers. I also was interested in some of the comments about how research is funded and the motivations for it. And some other stuff. Check it out: http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2012/03/08/overheard-on-cnn-com-are-there-any-more-wright-brothers-out-there/

    March 8, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  20. Kevin

    Be quick!!! Before the bankers and politicians pollute that place!

    March 8, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  21. MashaSobaka

    I agree with those who are saying that this should not be billed as Cameron's accomplishment, but rather it should be acknowledged that he is part of a TEAM that is doing great things. But we all know how much Cameron loves the spotlight. That's not going away any time soon. Luckily he's duped enough people into thinking that he's a good filmmaker to earn enough money to make this project possible. At least he's part of something worthwhile this time around.

    March 8, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  22. ItIsToLaugh

    Deep, unknown water is probably my only fear. Well, that and our government.

    March 8, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  23. Sawce Boss

    James Cameron pilots his deep-sea vessel to the Marianas Trench and finds the unexpected.. Muscles Glasses eating Megalodon. Uhh whaadup.

    March 8, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  24. Varangian

    I don't mean to knock him for what he's about to do but couldn't he have made it... bigger?

    Surely a little bit more room couldn't hurt?

    March 8, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • MashaSobaka

      You don't know much about the deep ocean, do you?

      March 8, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
      • Varangian

        Maybe not but that's why we have science!

        March 8, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  25. sp2011

    He wants to be the king of the Oceans now.

    March 8, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  26. Deep North

    We have already screwed over everything above the water. and we have done a fairly good job with the shallower part below the water. Do we really need him to go Deep and figure out a ways to just /frack the entire planet!.

    March 8, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  27. ZZ2011

    This is so awesome!

    March 8, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  28. Nick

    What an unbelievable feat! James is an inspiration to the mankind. This guy literally has money to buy big pieces of land (or water – for that matter) and he still has the passion to explore and contribute so much to the world. The superrich need to learn so much from the likes of James and Rich Branson. Rather than creating mindless TV shows or soap operas, or buying tallest buildings, their contribution is for the benefit of the mankind and science. Thanks to all such inspirational figures for contribution so much to the human community.

    March 8, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • ItIsToLaugh

      These thing's you mention about Cameron does not make him a "good person". He has a reputation for being a pr!ck. Nothing honorable about that.

      March 8, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  29. legman

    This clown obviously has a death wish, so how bout we just pay his family $50 and watch a semi truck drive over his empty head??

    March 8, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  30. herold aubourg

    i believe that the is just right to answer unanswered questions about this body of water. I am waiting with expectation to discover his finding and that's is Kool. Another thing that I would to see is the rotation of the earth in slow motion and that could be super koll.

    March 8, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  31. davetharave

    I'm not going down there.

    March 8, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
  32. chris

    and he'll pay for this by claiming global warming is ruining everything. just like the fools claiming humboldt squid numbers are growing in size due to global warming, forget that their natural predators are being fished out of existence. preach about the church of global warming and the minions will listen and repeat.

    March 8, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
  33. ConfusedReality

    Is this for real? Or is this a movie?

    March 8, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  34. LivingLarge

    That's one heck of a pee tube... big guy... we can't close the hatch sir...

    March 8, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  35. Steve

    Good to see rich people behaving well again!

    March 8, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
  36. CrushedtoDeath

    $100 says he'll get crushed to death at 27,000 feet deep when the submersible predictably malfunctions. He'll have sufficient air for a couple hours of pure dying anxiety which will be televised and made into a movie.

    March 8, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
  37. CrushedtoDeath

    $100 says he gets crushed to death when the submersible predictably malfunctions at 27,000 ft. deep. Then, his genes smashed like diamonds, meld with unknown sea creatures to form a new life form... one that returns to produce superficial movies... and the cycle repeats until the Sun explodes... rendering everything entirely irrelevant...

    March 8, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • Deep North

      Bravo! Encore!

      March 8, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • CrushedtoDeath

      "Crushed to Death... the movie"... coming soon...

      March 8, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
  38. Matt

    This is so amazing! This is stuff I want to do when I get out of college! I love science and oceanography!

    March 8, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • CrushedtoDeath

      But, unfortunately, you won't.. instead... you'll work like a Gerbil on a wheel until your third wife poisons your supper.

      March 8, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  39. macbil

    I wish Cameron would explore the deepest depths of the Republican Presidential candidates' minds. They're a mystery to me.

    March 8, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • denim

      Challenger Deep is like a kiddie pool compared to those!

      March 8, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  40. rch

    This was already done.. Look up Bathyscaphe Trieste.

    March 8, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • denim

      Try reading the article.

      March 8, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  41. Dale

    Looking for the decepticons?

    March 8, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  42. rh

    Gee, we're a lot alike.

    I'm hoping to have enough money to take my family of five on a modest Florida vacation.

    March 8, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  43. JustEric

    LOL...who made that graphic? "Depth of an inverted Mt. Everest?" Seriously?

    You DO know that upside-down or rightside-up, just about anything is the same height, right? 🙂

    March 8, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  44. DanR.

    That is one scary dive by yourself in a glorified beer can! At least he's got a pair!

    March 8, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  45. yoda

    Never argue with idiots, they will bring you down to their level and beat you with experiene everytime!!!

    March 8, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  46. matt

    why is there a 10 million $ award if someone already did this in 1960?

    March 8, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • denim

      There's a difference between going as deep as you can, and getting to the bottom.

      March 8, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  47. jimbo jones

    He better be careful. If the submersible cracks, it's sayonara in two microseconds!

    March 8, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
  48. Science

    Cool!

    March 8, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  49. Pohon

    Oh, great. Next thing you know, a theme park will be down there.

    March 8, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  50. Trivia guy

    The Trieste is on display at the National Museum of the US NAvy in washington, DC along with several other deep diving devices.

    March 8, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
  51. Stick it in you

    There is no point in going to the Marianas unless gasoline is there. MMMmmmmm, sweet, sweet gasoline!

    March 8, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  52. Samson

    Isn't it ironic that conservatives are the ones bashing him while at the same time preaching that individuals should have the right to do whatever they like with their money. Thank goodness the world is becoming more liberal with every passing year. I mean the conservatives today would be considering extremely liberal hundreds of years ago. They're a dying breed. That's the light at the end of the tunnel I suppose.

    March 8, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • TJ

      Amen

      March 8, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  53. Reson & Logic

    In a prior interview, Cameron said he will use much of the photography taken during this dive for his Avatar sequel.

    March 8, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  54. TJ

    I bet he finds 2Pac and Elvis playing poker

    March 8, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  55. anon

    People are becoming increasingly TIRED of garbage like this being considered news. Cameron is a movie director, WHO CARES? Just a heads up CNN (and all other media), we're on to the fact that this kind of junk is brought up and then there's a movie soon to follow. We're learning your stupid game and we're soon no longer going to participate. How about covering news like Bin Laden's body never being buried at sea. True or not "news" and REAL journalists would seriously research that. Not run some stupid feel good story while omitting stories that might harm a politician. Also, we ALREADY HAVE A CURE FOR CANCER AND IT'S NOT A FISH. Cover that.

    March 8, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • Reson & Logic

      You are ignorant. If it wasn't for explorers we wouldn't be living in this world as we know it today.

      March 8, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • TJ

      Yeah why would a guy setting the record for the deepest dive, equipped with research equipment and cameras be on the news? I guess we should get back to talking about Snookie being pregnant...

      March 8, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • Samson

      Speak for yourself. I find stories like this inspirational. Shouldn't you be hanging out over at Fox News anyways?

      March 8, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  56. KnowsMore123

    Another waste of taxpayer dollars, like most science research.

    March 8, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • TJ

      ummm...these are private dollars. Only your popcorn money went in to this.

      March 8, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • Reson & Logic

      What????? Who, pray-tell paid taxes for this?

      March 8, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • Samson

      What are you talking about? He's using his OWN money. Shouldn't a conservative like you actually admire a man like this? Think about it.

      March 8, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  57. Kerry

    I think he should send his avatar down, just to be safe.

    March 8, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
  58. capnmike

    I hope his little sub doesn't implode or anything...otherwise we will never get to see AVATAR #2

    March 8, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • MashaSobaka

      Why not? The first Avatar was about as derivative as movies come. Why should the sequel be any different? Anyone can write it. Never fear.

      March 8, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  59. Science is our friend

    I think James Cameron is a d-bag of the largest proportions, but he makes a good movie. And this sounds fascinating. I'm looking forward to it.

    March 8, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • capnmike

      Oh, and you're better, d'bag?

      March 8, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • Science is our friend

      Better at being a d bag? No, he is decidedly better. You probably are too. Congratulations!

      March 8, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • Reson & Logic

      Well spoken as an envious lout.

      March 8, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  60. Olaf Big

    Well, this is certainly a better way to spend the money than gambling in Las Vegas, and it should be an experience of a liftetime but what again is new about this? To bodly go where Jacques Piccard went in 1960?

    March 8, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
  61. palintwit

    Sarah Palin University has a Department of Oceanography that is the envy of scientists the world over. Among their current projects is a deep sea Teabagger Submersible Double Wide Trailer, or TSDWT for short.

    March 8, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
  62. Kevin

    He could be sitting poolside at one of his mansions but this guy cant sit still, good for him.

    March 8, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
  63. Mike

    Remember when knowledgeable people got credit for doing things? Now, all you hear is a celebrity who's fronting the money and taking credit for the technology.

    March 8, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  64. Scott

    This is what rich people should be doing!

    March 8, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  65. Byrd

    Very cool, Cameron. Good luck indeed!

    March 8, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  66. sielingfan

    I think he's going to find drums, drums in the deep.

    March 8, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • Andrew

      Jumanji!

      March 8, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
      • Bmoney

        I think he meant Lord of the rings....

        March 8, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
      • denim

        He definitely meant LotR.

        March 8, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Bill

      Been there, done that ALREADY!
      The Trieste did this in 1960 – reaching a record maximum depth of about 35,800 ft, in the Challenger Deep.

      The vessel is on display at the U.S. Navy Museum.

      So why should Cameron advertise this as a great historic achievement?

      March 8, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
  67. eric

    For the love of all that is sane, *do not* disturb the Elder Gods!!!!!

    March 8, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Kasey

      this was by the far the most exciting comment. and then i wanted to be your friend.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
  68. FinalDestination

    $100 bucks says Cameron dies from a submarine accident during filming of one of these projects of his.

    March 8, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • headache

      You're on!!!

      March 8, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • LvIt2TheExperts

      I bet whoever's insuring the Avatar sequel is crapping in their pants and speed dialing actuaries from their cell phones covered in the vomit from their own nervous breakdowns. It's too bad there isn't enough room in his bat sub for a team of real scientists who could... you know... do important work down there.

      March 8, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
      • Paul

        Thanks! Your post made me LOL for real!

        March 8, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
      • JamieIRL

        The film taken will be just as good as being there (for the scientist). Also if they take samples down there, that'd be just as good as the scientist taking samples. If scientist DID go, they wouldn't bring a lab down with them 🙂

        March 8, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • c

      We are becoming a nasty bunch.

      March 8, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • gremlinus

      I'd do it.

      March 8, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • MichaelCChatt

      That's a sucky bet. It means he has to die from something else before you can be sure you've lost.

      March 8, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
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