James Cameron got nominated for an Oscar by filming blue cats having magic tail sex, so you better believe he can handle a challenge. His most recent challenge is to make a 35,800 foot descent in a one-man submarine to the deepest point of the Earth, the “Challenger Deep” of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean. Only two people have previously made the 7-mile-deep journey (Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard in 1960).
Cameron will make the decent in a 12-ton, 25-foot tall, specially-designed submarine named the Deep Challenger. It takes 90 minutes to reach the ocean floor and another 70 minutes to ascend; he plans to spend up to six hours at the bottom collecting samples for scientific research in collaboration with The Scripps Institution of Oceanography, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the universities of Hawaii and Guam. He’ll also be documenting his dive for a National Geographic TV special and a 3-D documentary he’ll be releasing theatrically. In keeping with the “found footage” trend in movies these days, he’ll be recording the film with an iPhone (not really).
Cameron has already made 76 submersible dives to prepare for the 7 mile (11.2 km) dive. His deepest test dive so far was a 26,000 foot descent in the Solomon Sea south of Papua New Guinea.
Outfitted with special cameras and robotic arms, Deepsea Challenger is able to dive vertically at speeds of 500-700 feet per minute and can withstand immense pressure – up to 16,000 pounds per square inch. When the submersible hatch closes, the temperature inside rises “like a sauna,” said Cameron, who began his descent in shorts and a t-shirt. Later, he layers up, with the temperatures dropping to freezing the further down he goes. [CNN]
You can keep track of the mission’s progress by following @DeepChallenge or their Facebook page. Cameron discusses the mission in this video, which is suspiciously absent of any mention of krabby patties: