After years of preparation, James Cameron now may be just hours from attempting his unprecedented solo dive to the ocean’s deepest point, members of the National Geographic expedition confirmed Saturday.
The National Geographic explorer and filmmaker’s team left the tiny Pacific atoll of Ulithi (map) in two ships Saturday morning, local time, on the way to the waters above the Mariana Trench. If seas remain calm—a big if—the team may proceed with Cameron’s submersible mission to the trench’s Challenger Deep this weekend.
Cameron’s “vertical torpedo” of a sub, as he calls it, has already made the nearly 7-mile (11-kilometer) trip to Challenger Deep and back, unmanned and unscathed, Cameron told National Geographic News
We did some test launches and recoveries, and we did an unpiloted dive of the vehicle,” Cameron said in a phone interview Friday.
Folded into a sub cockpit as cramped as any Apollo capsule, Cameron will collect data, specimens, and imagery unthinkable in 1960, when Walsh and Piccard left Challenger Deep having seen little more than the silt stirred up by their bathyscaphe.
After as long as six hours in the trench, Cameron—best known for creating fictional worlds on film (Avatar, Titanic, The Abyss)—will jettison steel weights attached to the sub and shoot back to the surface.
Meanwhile, Cameron’s team will await his return aboard the research ships Mermaid Sapphire and Barakuda.
Cameron has already gone to the 5 mile bottom of the New Britain Trench
He will be making 3D movie documentaries of his journeys.