James Cameron hits bottom: deepest ever solo sub dive

Movie director, global explorer, and noted badass James Cameron today dove to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean, earth's deepest point, using a specially designed submarine. He is the first person to attempt such a dive since 1960. More on the project, and what they hope to accomplish, at the Deep Sea Challenge website.

From National Geographic:

At noon, local time (10 p.m. ET), James Cameron's "vertical torpedo" sub broke the surface of the western Pacific, carrying the National Geographic explorer and filmmaker back from the Mariana Trench's Challenger Deep—Earth's deepest, and perhaps most alien, realm.

The first human to reach the 6.8-mile-deep (11-kilometer-deep) undersea valley solo, Cameron arrived at the bottom with the tech to collect scientific data, specimens, and visions unthinkable in 1960, when the only other manned Challenger Deep dive took place, according to members of the National Geographic expedition.

After a faster-than-expected, roughly 70-minute ascent, Cameron's sub, bobbing in the open ocean, was spotted by helicopter and would soon be plucked from the Pacific by a research ship's crane. Earlier, the descent to Challenger Deep had taken 2 hours and 36 minutes.

(Photo: Mark Thiessen, National Geographic)


  1. “dove to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean, earth’s deepest point,”… and Tweeted about it, from there. That cheeky bastard, well played

  2. 70 mins to ascend 6.8 nautical miles? I don’t know much about these things, but that seems like an oftly short depressurization period?

    While cool, let’s also temper this by noting that two robotic submersibles have been down there, and so this is more of a “mankind back to the bottom” than “breakthrough trip”. Also, Google’s Eric Schmidt is pouring money into a multi-person submersible focused more on science than filming and tweeting.

    1. It would be an extremely short depressurization time if the sub was at anything other than one atmosphere.  That’s the reason for the two and a half inches of steel. 

      Depressurization stops are required when the human body absorbs nitrogen from air at depth, which enters the bloodstream in tiny bubbles that expand when the pressure on the body is reduced.  If the pressure on the body itself remains at one atmosphere (every 34 feet of saltwater is another atmosphere) the entire time, there is no need for a depression stop.

      Offhand, is there really any difference between Schmidt, Cameron, and Richard Branson’s “let’s dive deep” vehicles?  I think there’s enough science to be done in this environment that there’s room for multiple approaches.  If Cameron can inspire the next Cousteau, more power to all.

      1.  Branson’s sub is certainly very different from the others, as it’s based on hydrodynamic lift. Schmidt’s has a larger crew and is more designed to do research rather than just get down there.

        1. Trieste “just got down there.”  Deepsea Challenger has cameras, a robotic arm, and sampling chambers.  I’m not sure what additional equipment other craft will be taking down there.

          Call this a publicity stunt all you want, but there is science being done.  It may not be as much science as you’d like or not the scientist you want, but given the staggering lack of knowledge about 70% of our planet’s area, there’s enough room for everyone here.

    2. I’d say being the first one person sub to make it that deep in under half the time it the only other manned sub to make it there, and to actually have visibility and be able to record what is happening makes it pretty breakthrough.
      This also is a scientific journey, in a scientific vessel. The machine has a robotic arm for taking samples, video cameras and lights for filming and is dropping off some animal traps which I gather it will collect at a later point for investigation.

      Also, as others have said. No need to depressurise, the pressure is constant inside the vehicle.

  3. Canada needs to birth more James Camerons instead of Pamela Andersons and Biebers.

    I remember reading about the first expedition years ago and that they couldn’t see anything because the vehicle unsettled a lot of crap on the seabed. I wonder how they tackled it this time around with the propulsion. 

    1. Yeah, the the design of the craft is based on not having that happen again. I believe the thrusters at are the top of the column specifically to reduce the turbulence, and one reason why they planned to stay there for up to 6 hours is that in case there is still too much silt, they can wait it out, unlike the trieste that only had a few minutes.

  4. So where are the pictures? In these modern times, there should already have been at least a few preliminery (sp), teaser
     digital photos sent out with the press release. This story begs for visuals.

      1. The divers were a nice touch….now that’s bad-ass, going to the bottom of the Mariana Trench with NO protection.

        *tee hee*

    1. This story begs for visuals.

      Hell, he gave us those in ’88. Remember the water tentacle? The crazy alien city? Ed Harris breathing oxygenated amniotic fluid?

      1. As long as it doesn’t get edited like that movie.

        For the longest time I thought the “aliens” were nice benevolent creatures…then I saw the directors cut or full version.  HORY SHET how 1 minute of footage changes your perspective of the entire thing.

        1. As long as it doesn’t get edited like that movie.

          The longer version is often referred to as the “Director’s Cut” but the truth is Cameron actually maintained editorial control over all cuts of the film. If there’s a version you like, that was him. If there’s a version you hate, that was him too.

  5. I absolutely HATE the 3D crap he’s pushed on moviegoers…but the Maritime shit? This, the multiple dives to Titanic? If making obnoxious 3D movies gives him the money to fund this kind of research? Dayum.

    1. You can’t really blame the glut of bad 3D on Cameron, though; he had a specific reason for wanting to use 3D in Avatar (wanting to immerse the audience in Pandora as much as possible without virtual reality headsets; he co-invented the cameras that he used for the process). Numerous studios saw the record-breaking grosses that he got for Avatar and came to the wrong conclusions.

  6. I find it surreal that the Nat Geo spokesperson in the trailer was kind of a dead ringer for the character actor Brad Dourif, who specializes in science fiction/horror films…often as the bad guy. 

  7. For some reason this freaks me out more than any trip into space.

    Also, I fell bad for all of you that read this and the only thing you can think (and comment) about are his shitty movies.

  8. I heard he was looking for Ed Harris down there. He couldn’t imagine another reason why Ed wouldn’t answer his phone calls.

    Seriously though, I love slagging off James Cameron, but this is an incredibly cool thing to do. He’s really gone up in my estimation. If you were to judge him by his later films, you’d think he was an airhead, but now it’s obvious that he has some real…depth. *runs*

  9. Can anyone explain how he could ascend so fast without needing to decompress? Or is he spending time decompressing now instead? I read somewhere that you need to be in decompression for 2 weeks for after having hit those kinds of depths.

    1. Read above, where the question was already answered (no need for decompression since the pressure stays the same the whole time… well, unless something goes seriously wrong).

  10. I remember reading about the original dive that Walsh and Piccard made. I’ve long since forgotten the book, but I remember this haunting line: “The record can only be equaled, never broken.”

    I also remember reading that if you cut Mount Everest off at its base and dropped it into deepest part of the Mariana Trench its peak would be more than a mile underwater. In spite of never having actually seen Mount Everest  that gives me a pretty good idea just how deep we’re talking here.

  11. Compared to other directors Cameron isn’t really that bad IMO.  Aliens, Terminator 1 & 2, The Abyss, and True Lies were all pretty good, or at least I thought they were.  Titanic wasn’t a bad movie in and of itself, just not something I cared for.  Now the whole Avatar series….well I’ll reserve some judgement for the second one, but it feels like he is trying to out special effect Michael Bay.

    But like others have said at least he is doing something to expand the boundaries of science with all his money.

  12. I dislike Avatar for being too preachy and heavy handed. I didn’t much care about titanic due to being essentially a sob story.

    His deep sea diving and other documentery and research related materials? Spot On.

    Keep Rockin’ Mr. Cameron. Keep Rockin’.

  13. There is a distinct difference between, “first to go solo because no one has ever been skilled and/or daring enough to try,” and, “first to go solo because funding is so tight it’s wasteful to only send one guy at a time.”

    But hey, if this raises awareness about the health of the deep ocean, more power to him.

  14. I was hoping he’d find the “Sea People” who ended the Bronze Age – a bunch of Dick Cheneys chewing on heart valves.

  15. You don’t get it.. He is REALLY good at making money. Lot’s of it.. That allows him to do his real passion, deep sea exploration.
    Elon Musk made tons of bread doing PayPal. That let him do his real passion, engineering with Tesla Motors and SpaceX.

    I think it’s cool that these guys do real things with their money instead of hookers and blow.

  16. The Wikipedia article for ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea’ states: “Verne depicted the Nautilus as capable of diving freely into even the deepest of ocean depths, where in modern-day reality it is still not possible for a submarine to do so without being crushed by the weight of water above it.”
    There you have it: James Cameron faked his expedition. He’s been caught-out by Wikipedia, the fraudster!
    Also, Captain Nemo sailed the Nautilus to a depth of four leagues, which is over 22km. James Cameron (what rank is he, anyway?!) descended only as far as 10,898 metres — not even half as much. Piss-weak.

    1.  Well sure, but you’re only reacting to the unclassified information published by National Geographic (if you want to believe that tabloid, churning out “news” pablum for the masses)!  If you understand what is *really* going on under the ocean’s surface and why Cameron had to develop his own nerve-system disabling technology to sell to the US Coast Guard (with it’s front of “helping ships”) you’d really start to see what this thing is truly capable of.

      It’s all a conspiracy, man,  Jules Verne’s Nautilus was an inside job.

  17. I guess it’s not much different than being an astronaut in terms of danger.  But being down there would totally freak me out.  Being in space would be cool — 6 miles under the ocean’s surface would be terrifying to me!

    1. As a diver, it’s always interested to me how dangerous it gets in relatively short periods of time. 

      200 feet is pretty much the outer limits of recreational diving.  That’s pretty much the length of a city block, which you can walk in a minute. 

      6 miles down is almost as far as you can go.  6 miles on land is halfway across Manhattan. 

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