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James Cameron diving to the bottom of the Mariana Trench

March 8, 2012 | 12:17 pm

James Cameron

James Cameron has announced his next major undertaking won't be a Hollywood blockbuster (though he does have those coming soon), but a dive to the world's deepest point, nearly seven miles below the surface of the ocean.

In the coming weeks, the director of "Titanic" and "Avatar" will climb inside the Deepsea Challenger, a single-pilot submersible vehicle he helped design, and dive to the Challenger Deep, the lowest point in the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean 200 miles southwest of Guam. Once he's there he plans to spend six hours on the ocean floor collecting scientific samples and filming for a 3-D theatrical feature documentary that will also be broadcast on the National Geographic Channel.

"The deep trenches are the last unexplored frontier on our planet, with scientific riches enough to fill a hundred years of exploration," Cameron said in a statement.

Cameron's undertaking is not without risk to the filmmaker. The only other humans to venture this deep under the ocean were a U.S. Navy lieutenant and a Swiss oceanographer in 1960. Their trip to the bottom in the bathyscaphe Trieste took four hours and 48 minutes and they spent just 20 minutes on the ocean bottom. One of the outer windows of the vessel cracked under the enormous sea pressure during the descent.

The modern submersible is considerably more high-tech, fitted with an ocean-depth rated stereoscopic camera (also partially designed by Cameron) designed to capture the sea life that exists only at that extreme depth.

This isn't the first time Cameron has captured his passion for diving with documentary cameras. Following his multiple dives to the wreck of the Titanic to film his 1997 blockbuster, he returned for the Discovery Channel special "Last Mysteries of the Titanic" and also visited the undersea wreck of the German battleship Bismarck for another Discovery special, "Expedition: Bismarck." By comparison, the Titanic rests just 2½ miles below the ocean's surface.

He also released the 3-D feature documentaries "Ghosts of the Abyss" and "Aliens of the Deep," based on his dives.

The filmmaker has stated that his planned sequel to his biggest hit, "Avatar," will explore the oceans of the alien planet Pandora.

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-- Patrick Kevin Day

Photo: James Cameron. Credit: Julie Jacobson / Associated Press

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