At the southern end of a looping subduction zone in the Pacific Ocean called the Mariana Trench, a valley cuts into the sea floor nearly 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) below sea level. It is the lowest place on earth and only 2 men, ’60s explorers Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard, have ever been there.
James Cameron aims to be the third.
Soon the Titanic director will climb into a custom-built submersible and be lowered for 90 minutes into the trench. When he hits the the deepest point in the earth’s oceans — also known as “Challenger Deep” — he’ll park the vehicle for 5 hours and conduct research in some of the harshest environmental conditions imaginable.
At the bottom, the pressure exceeds 16,000 pounds per square inch — the equivalent pressure you’d feel with several cars smashed on top of your fingertip.
Despite the conditions, Piccard, a Swiss oceanographer, told reporters he saw a fish swimming on the seafloor when he and the US Navy explored the trench in 1960. Marine biologists have since questioned the feasibility of the claim.
Cameron may settle the dispute once and for all… in 3D. His dive, called the Deepsea Challenge, will be filmed in High Definition 3D and turned into a documentary. No release date has been set.
Cameron is currently camped on Guam, gearing up for the trip and waiting out bad weather before making his first official descent to the bottom.
Editor’s Note: On Sunday, March 26, James Cameron completed his journey to the Earth’s deepest point. He spent just over three hours underwater before beginning his return to the surface. There is no immediate word on when photographic footage from the journey will be released.