Yesterday was a historic day in the exploration of our planet’s oceans. James Cameron became just the third person – and the first to dive solo – to reach the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the lowest point on our planet. Cameron made the dive inside a specially designed submersible that took him nearly 11km (7 miles) beneath the surface.
The project, which is called the Deepsea Challenge, has been a dream of Cameron’s for some time. He partnered with National Geographic and Rolex on this expedition, which was shot in high definition 3D for an upcoming documentary. It took him about 2.5 hours to descend into the Challenger Deep, the lowest point in the Mariana, at which point he spent roughly 3 hours exploring and filming the trench. He then proceeded back to the surface, more quickly than anticipated, with a return trip that took just 70 minutes.
Those hoping that he would find giant sea creatures or aliens lurking in the depths will be sadly disappointed in what was actually down there. In a post-dive press conference Cameron described the bottom of the ocean as “lunar, desolated, isolated.” He also noted that what life he did see was quite small and didn’t include large jellyfish or anemones.
The voyage to the bottom of the sea wasn’t without a few issues. A mechanical arm that would have been used to collect samples from the trench failed to work and a mechanical failure caused him to lose his starboard thrusters. That meant he was simply spinning in place for a time, which caused him to cut about three hours off the dive. For the most part the mission was a big success however and plans are already underway to make another return trip sometime in the next few weeks. No word on whether or not Cameron will be the one piloting the sub or if one of the other team members will be able to take over those honors.
Congrats to Cameron and his entire team on a job well done. I can’t wait to see some footage from the bottom of the ocean. I’m already looking forward to the documentary, which is probably at least a couple of years away at this point.
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