After years of planning and developing a sub that could make his dream a reality, James Cameron today finally touched down at the ocean’s deepest point – 35,756 feet in the belly of the Mariana Trench.
Cameron became the first solo diver ever to reach such a depth; joining only two other men who performed the same feat back in 1960. A number of differences exist however between now and then – the most obvious being that the director is armed to the teeth with high-definition cameras, robotic instruments and other gizmos numbering 180 working systems.
The other being Twitter. A few minutes after he made the record dive, Cameron tweeted: “Just arrived at the ocean’s deepest pt. Hitting bottom never felt so good. Can’t wait to share what I’m seeing w/ you.”
That last part is particularly important – since the crew of the Trieste 50 years ago stirred up so much silt upon their arrival that photos just weren’t possible. Cameron’s images and videos will shed new light on a place few have ever seen before. He’ll also spend more than six hours on the bottom conducting experiments, exploring the surrounding area, and looking for life. The Trieste had less than 20 minutes.
Upon touchdown at Challenger Deep, Cameron’s first target is a phone booth-like unmanned “lander” dropped into the trench hours before his dive.
Using sonar, “I’m going to attempt to rendezvous with that vehicle so I can observe animals that are attracted to the chemical signature of its bait,” Cameron told National Geographic News before the dive.
He’ll later follow a route designed to take him through as many environments as possible, surveying not only the sediment-covered seafloor but also cliffs of interest to expedition geologists.
As a further reminder of how extreme conditions at the bottom of the trench are, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen (who has been in touch with the dive team) recently tweeted: “Pressure at bottom is 16,285 Pounds per square inch at that depth. Design pressure was 16,500 …Yikes/Amazing!”
Leave it to Cameron and his team to nail this dive. Well done everyone – and congrats!