James Cameron to Dive the Mariana Trench

James Cameron's one-man mini sub named the Deep Sea Challenger

National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and filmmaker James Cameron has announced he will soon operate a one-man submarine seven miles deep to the Pacific’s Mariana Trench, the deepest point in our oceans on earth. Cameron plans to spend as much as 6 hours on the ocean floor and will film and take specimens for scientific study. Preparations for the expedition are already well underway. James Cameron and his team will head for the Mariana Trench only after completing myriad tests—off the U.S. island territory of Guam (map), about 200 miles (320 kilometers) northeast of Challenger Deep. The dive will be part of Cameron’s DEEPSEA CHALLENGE project, a partnership with National Geographic and Rolex that will take him and a crew of engineers, scientists, and filmmakers to the deepest ocean regions on Earth.

I’ve always dreamed of diving to the deepest place in the oceans. For me it went from a boyhood fantasy to a real quest, like climbing Everest, as I learned more about deep-ocean exploration and became an explorer myself in real life. This quest was not driven by the need to set records, but by the same force that drives all science and exploration … curiosity. So little is known about these deep places that I knew I would see things no human has ever seen. There is currently no submersible on Earth capable of diving to the ‘full ocean depth’ of 36,000 feet. The only way to make my dream a reality was to build a new vehicle unlike any in current existence. Our success during seven prior expeditions building and operating our own deep-ocean vehicles, cameras, and lighting systems gave me confidence that such a vehicle could be built, and not just with the vast resources of government programs, but also with a small entrepreneurial team. It took more than seven years to design and build the vehicle, and it is still a work in progress. Every dive teaches us more, and we are continuing to improve the sub and its systems daily, as we move through our sea trials.” said Cameron.

Cameron, 57, also said he hopes the project will help answer some surprisingly basic scientific questions about ocean trenches, such as whether fish can live in the sea’s deepest reaches.

It should come as no surprise that James Cameron isn’t the only person striving to reach the ocean’s deepest point. U.K. magnate Richard Branson has built a two-seater sub resembling a stubby-winged airplane, which he says can survive a Challenger Deep descent. Also, the Triton “luxury” submersible company last year unveiled the Triton 36000/3 model, which would reportedly allow a three-person crew to make the journey. However, of these current-day contenders, the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER appears as though it’ll be first to make the trip down and back.

Keep abreast of daily activity by following James Cameron’s diving expedition on twitter: @DeepChallenge.