We posted recently about the “race” to dive to the deepest spot in the ocean, the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench, almost 36,000 feet below the surface. The first and last time that anyone ever ventured to the bottom of the trench was over fifty years ago. We posted, “Now three and possibly four teams are preparing to return to the depths of the Mariana Trench…. Hollywood director James Cameron is … understood to be preparing for a descent.”
Rumors of Cameron’s attempt have been confirmed. Reported to be making an attempt later this month, he may be the first to return to the bottom of the Mariana Trench.
Miles Under the Pacific, a Director Will Take On His Riskiest Project
[Cameron] built his miniature submarine secretly in Australia, and already it has outdone all other watercraft in its ability to ferry people through the deep’s crushing pressures. As with the birth of the private space rocket industry, where commercial companies are building ships to take astronauts aloft, the debut of Mr. Cameron’s submarine signals the rising importance of entrepreneurs in the global race to advance science and technology.
Mr. Cameron will collect samples for research in biology, microbiology, astrobiology, marine geology and geophysics. “The science is paramount,” Ellen Stanley, a National Geographic spokeswoman, said in an interview. “We’re out to learn what’s down there.”
Aboard Mr. Cameron’s expedition is Douglas Bartlett, a professor of marine microbial genetics at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, an arm of the University of California at San Diego. Last year, Dr. Bartlett led a team that dropped cameras into the Mariana Trench and observed giant amoebas — a first in the inhospitable zone. Known as xenophyophores, these mysterious life forms consist of a single cell and appear able to grow to the size of a fist. Scientists find them exclusively in the deep sea.
National Geographic said the public would be able to follow Mr. Cameron’s expedition at www.deepseachallenge.com. It described the project’s main science collaborator as Scripps, followed by the University of Hawaii, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of Guam. The film director has long exhibited a fascination with the deep sea, making “The Abyss” (1989), “Titanic” (1997) and a number of documentaries about lost ships, including “Bismarck” (2002) and “Ghosts of the Abyss” (2003), a 3-D tour of the Titanic’s interior. National Geographic said that Mr. Cameron had now made a total of 76 submersible dives, including 33 to the famous luxury liner.