March 25 (Reuters) - "Titanic" film director James Cameron
has completed the world's first solo dive to the deepest known
point on Earth, reaching the bottom of the Pacific Ocean's
Mariana Trench southwest of Guam in a specially designed
The filmmaker arrived at the site known as "Challenger Deep"
shortly before 8 a.m. local time Monday (6 p.m. EDT on Sunday),
reaching a depth of 35,756 feet (10,898 meters), or roughly 7
miles beneath the ocean's surface, said the National Geographic
Society, which is overseeing the expedition.
Cameron's first words to the surface upon reaching the
bottom were, "All systems OK," National Geographic said on its
"Hitting bottom never felt so good. Can't wait to share what
I'm seeing w/ you," the filmmaker said in a separate Twitter
message posted just after he touched down.
The low-point of the Mariana Trench, a great valley below
the Pacific, has been reached by humans just once before, in
1960 when U.S. Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh and Swiss oceanographer
Jacques Piccard spent 20 minutes there in the bathyscaphe
Cameron, the first to make a solo dive to the spot, planned
to spend six hours there collecting research samples for marine
biology and geology.
The expedition is a joint project by Cameron, National
Geographic and watchmaker Rolex that has been dubbed "Deepsea
Challenge" and is designed to expand understanding of a
little-known corner of the Earth.
The single-man vehicle piloted by Cameron, the Deepsea
Challenger, stands 24 feet (7 meters) tall and was designed to
descend upright and rotating at a speed of about 500 feet (150
meters) per minute.
The submersible represents breakthroughs in materials
science, structural engineering and imaging through an
ultra-small, full-ocean depth-rated stereoscopic camera.
While he is perhaps better known as director of such films
as "Titanic," "Avatar" and "Aliens," Cameron is no stranger to
underwater exploration. For "Titanic," he took 12 dives to the
famed shipwreck in the North Atlantic, leading him to develop
deep-sea film and exploration technology.
Since then he has led six expeditions, authored a forensic
study of the German battleship Bismarck wreck site and conducted
extensive 3-D imaging of deep hydrothermal vents along the
Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the East Pacific Rise and the Sea of Cortez.
(Reporting and writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by David Bailey
and Stacey Joyce)
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