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Filmmaker James Cameron to plunge to deepest spot in ocean

James Cameron plans to visit the Challenger Deep, which at seven miles below the ocean's surface is the deepest place on Earth, aboard a state-of-the-art diving craft.

By Andrea MustainOurAmazingPlanet / March 8, 2012

The Deepsea Challenger submersible begins its first 2.5-mile test dive off the coast of Papua New Guinea. The sub is the centerpiece of Deepsea Challenge, a joint scientific project by explorer and filmmaker James Cameron, the National Geographic Society and Rolex to conduct deep-ocean research.

Mark Thiessen/National Geographic.

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Filmmaker and explorer James Cameron has unveiled plans to visit the deepest place on planet Earth in the coming weeks, aboard a state-of-the-art, deep-diving craft built beneath a veil of secrecy in Australia.

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If successful, the dive will mark only the second time that humans have ever visited the bottom of the Mariana Trench, some 7 miles (11.2 kilometers) beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean.

The lime-green, cylindrical craft, dubbed the Deepsea Challenger — a play on the name of the deepest spot in the Mariana Trench, known as Challenger Deep — is a single-pilot submersible built to withstand the crushing pressures at 36,200 feet (11,030 meters) below the ocean's surface, and is capable of bringing back samples for scientific study. [Infographic: Tallest Mountain to Deepest Ocean Trench]

The famed director and writer behind Hollywood blockbusters such as "Titanic" and "Avatar," Cameron has long embraced new technology and adventure both on and off the screen. His latest seafaring adventure is backed by the National Geographic Society and Rolex.

Deep history

Humans first and last reached the Challenger Deep more than 50 years ago. In 1960, U.S. Navy Lt. Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard, a Swiss native, rode a massive metal vessel — the Trieste — to the seafloor and spent 20 minutes in the darkness there.

According to a release from National Geographic, Cameron plans to spend six hours at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean trench, which lies about 200 miles (322 km) southwest of Guam, to collect samples for research in marine biology, microbiology, astrobiology, marine geology and geophysics.

The announcement comes on the heels of a successful deep-sea dive last week.  Cameron and his team piloted the Deepsea Challenger to a depth of more than 5 miles (8 km) off the coast of Papua New Guinea — an area near the southern edge of the Mariana Trench.

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