London: James Cameron is heading to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in person armed with hi-tech 3D cameras and lights.
Fewer people have reached the deepest point in the world’s oceans than have walked on the moon.
The multi-millionaire Hollywood film director behind ‘Titanic’ and ‘Avatar’ set out from the tiny Pacific island of Guam for the Mariana Trench, and is descending more than seven miles straight down in a lime green reinforced submersible, the first ever solo mission to the lowest point on Earth, according to the Telegraph.
Cameron’s 24ft long vertical capsule, The Deepsea Challenger, weighs 11 tons and was built amid great secrecy in Australia over the last eight years.
“The deep trenches are the last unexplored frontier on our planet, with scientific riches enough to fill a hundred years of exploration,” the director said.
During the nine-hour mission the 6ft 2 ins tall film-maker is having to stand hunched, barely able to move in a 3ft wide space, controlling his movements with a small joystick.
If everything goes well, Cameron will reach the bottom on Thursday although he is out of communication.
Some have accused Cameron, who once declared “I’m the king of the world” in an Oscar acceptance speech for Titanic, of ego-driven grandstanding.
After all, there will be little to see in the dark depths. But the man himself, who has poured millions of dollars of his own money into fulfilling a boyhood dream, said there will be a valuable scientific element to his extreme dive.
He is collecting animals, rocks, water and sediment using a robotic arm, and deploying traps with bait on the seabed to attract undiscovered creatures. The rocks will be analysed by geologists seeking to understand the movements of tectonic plates, and bacteria will be studied by space scientists seeking to discover how life survives in extreme conditions.
Before setting out, Cameron said: “The goal of all this is not just to set records and do grandstanding dives. We want to push the envelope not only of scientific knowledge but also of engineering. Who knows what we might find. We are there to do science but also to bring the average person, who only imagines this, to show them what it’s like.”
The director has assembled a team of experts and people he has worked with on films, including one who used to create the rigging that allows actors to “fly” during movie shoots.
“They all have to be a bit whacked to think it is possible to do something that is normally the province of governments or scientific institutions,” Cameron said.
The Mariana Trench is located off the Philippines and reaches its maximum depth at a point called Challenger Deep. The pressure there is more than 1,000 times that at the surface.