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James Cameron to go into the deep for film and science

This month, filmmaker James Cameron plans to lead the second trip to the deepest place on Earth. He aims to collect samples for science, as well as video footage.

By Nora Doyle-BurrContributor / March 8, 2012

In this April 11, 2011 file photo, director James Cameron speaks at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas. Cameron said Thursday, March 8, 2012, he plans to take a submersible craft down 7 miles to the world's deepest point in the Mariana Trench, in the Pacific Ocean 200 miles southwest of Guam.

AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, file

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James Cameron plans to make a journey this month to the deepest place on Earth.

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A five-mile-deep dive off of Papua New Guinea this week has already earned the director of "Avatar" and "Titanic" a new record for the deepest solo dive. But as a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, he now has his sights set on the bottom of the 7-mile deep Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean.

Built by Australians, the Deepsea Challenge submarine, fits just one person: James Cameron. "Cameron’s team describes it [the vehicle] as sharing qualities of both a race car and a torpedo," according to National Geographic.

If successful, his group will be the second to make it to the Challenger Deep, the deepest part of the Mariana Trench. The first group completed their trip in 1960. But the explorers, U.S. Navy lieutenant Don Walsh and Swiss scientist Jacques Piccard, were unable to take pictures because their landing stirred up too much sediment for them to see clearly.

What does it take to be a deep sea explorer?

Piccard's son, Bertrand Piccard, said his father, who died in 2008, passed on to him "a sense of curiosity, a desire to mistrust dogmas and common assumptions, a belief in free will, and confidence in the face of the unknown."

Going seven miles deep also requires lots of money, which in this case is coming from National Geographic and the Swiss watchmaker Rolex. Two other projects also aiming to explore the Challenger Deep. The Deep Flight Challenger is a project backed by Virgin Group chief Richard Branson. Another project called DOER Marine has received funding from Google executive Eric Schmidt. But it looks like Cameron will get there first. 

Unlike the Challenger Deep's first human visitors, Cameron plans to capture this part of the deep sea with 3D video footage. He also aims to collect samples from the ocean floor. National Geographic has already created a space on the web for Cameron to share his mission's findings, particularly targeting educators and students.
 
As Head of IUCN’s Global Marine Programme, Carl Gustaf Lundin puts it, “80% of biodiversity is under water and yet we know more about the moon than the deep ocean.”  Exploration of this deep sea will most certainly broaden our understanding of life on Earth.

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