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Almost everyone knows that director James Cameron is the genius behind two of Hollywood's biggest blockbusters - Titanic and Avatar. What they don't know is that he is an expert diver who has filmed two underwater documentaries - Ghosts of the Abyss (about the real Titanic) and Aliens of the Deep.
Now, the 57-year old Canadian is getting ready for his biggest adventure yet - To journey down into the Ocean's deepest known point. Located in the Mariana Trench, a 1,500-mile long scar in the Pacific seafloor, the Challenger Deep is a 6.8-mile long opening, that has been visited only once before, by a two-person crew from the U.S. Navy in 1960.
However, while the now-retired U.S. Navy Captain Don Walsh and Swiss engineer Jacques Piccard, did get to the bottom in their submersible Trieste, they lasted there for only 20 minutes, and, their view was entirely obscured by the silt they stirred up when trying to land.
Mr. Cameron is not only planning to do the trip solo but also, stay there for six hours collecting samples of flora and fauna from the sea floor and doing what he does best - Filming a documentary with the help of 3-D high definition cameras and an 8-foot tall array of LED lights.
He will make this historic trip inside the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER, a 24-foot tall submersible that has been designed such that it sinks upright. Eight years in the making, the craft that is made from a special foam, and at 12 metric tons is 12 times lighter than the Trieste, is not only the world's deepest-diving submersible currently in operation but also, the first deepest diving single-pilot submersible every made.
Mr. Cameron is currently performing some test dives to ensure that the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER is working as it was designed to. His first test occurred on Tuesday, March 6th when he sank into oceans off Papua New Guinea- going down 5.1 miles underwater - deeper than any human has been before, solo.
His next test will be undertaken off the U.S. island territory of Guam, about 200 miles northeast of his final destination - the Challenger Deep. If all goes well, the adventurous man will finally venture into what many scientists believe is the last unexplored frontier on Earth.
However, the trip which is expected to take about an hour and a half each way is not going to be very comfortable. Similar to the first astronauts that went to space, Mr. Cameron will be squeezed into a 43-inch wide pilot sphere - One that he will share with his emergency snacks, equipment and a change of clothing. What's worse is that he will be even more cramped on his trip back. That's because thanks to the intense water pressure, experts expect the submersible to shrink by 2.5 inches, as it heads down.
While Mr. Cameron will not be able to get out of his submersible when he gets to the bottom, he will, be prepared to 'explore' the area by moving it up and down and side to side, using the 12 propeller-driven thrusters the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER has been fitted with. He will also have access to a folding robotic arm to help him collect rocks, small animals, and other samples from the seafloor.
Preceding Mr. Cameron to the Challenger Deep will be a few unmanned 13-foot-tall landers fitted with cameras. These will carry the bait to try lure sea creatures into plastic cylinders and hopefully, bring them back to earth for research.
Of course, while every contingency to ensure Mr. Cameron's safety has been thought of, there is one thing no one can help him with - What he will encounter in this mysterious world that only two humans have ventured into. Scientists are anticipating creatures that are totally alien to us but maybe given the hostile environment, there will be nothing.
We shall all just have to wait and see and, cross our fingers for Mr. Cameron's safe return. The best part is, we will all get to experience his incredible journey from the comfort of our homes because everything he films will be morphed into a compelling documentary by National Geographic, who is sponsoring the endeavor. We have a feeling this is going to be even better than Avatar!