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James Cameron to partner with National Geographic to dive the Mariana Trench

Published: 9 March 2012

Film-maker and National Geographic explorer-in-residence, James Cameron, has announced that he will attempt to reach the world’s deepest point, the Mariana Trench, nearly 11.2 km beneath the ocean’s surface, marking the launch of DEEPSEA CHALLENGE, a joint scientific project by Cameron, the National Geographic Society and Rolex.

DEEPSEA CHALLENGE will aim to conduct deep-ocean research and exploration to expand our knowledge and understanding of these largely unknown parts of the planet. Cameron’s historic expedition will be the first extensive scientific exploration by a manned vehicle to the Mariana Trench’s lowest point, the 'Challenger Deep'. Cameron plans to spend six hours at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean trench, around 322km southwest of Guam, to collect samples for research in marine biology, microbiology, astrobiology, marine geology and geophysics.

Relying on advanced engineering and technologies created by Cameron and his team, successful field tests have been completed off the coast of Papua New Guinea. They included untethered deep-water dives — including one to a depth of more than 8km — in the single-pilot DEEPSEA CHALLENGER submersible, the result of an eight-year engineering effort and the deepest-diving manned marine vehicle in existence.

The public will be able to follow Cameron’s progress on the expedition at www.DEEPSEACHALLENGE.com, on Twitter by following @DeepChallenge or using #deepseachallenge, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/deepseachallenge.

“The deep trenches are the last unexplored frontier on our planet, with scientific riches enough to fill a hundred years of exploration,” Cameron said. “National Geographic, which has been exploring the world for nearly 125 years, is the ideal partner to help usher in a new era of deep-ocean research and exploration that supports leading scientific institutions in answering questions about the deepest, unexplored parts of the Earth. Our goal is to build a scientific legacy for generations to come. It’s also to inspire people across the globe to celebrate exploration and to explore with us online and through the media we produce.”

Cameron added, “Rolex is also a natural partner in this venture — unique in having reached the Challenger Deep 52 years ago and in its celebrated, century-long history of supporting exploration and helping push the boundaries of human and scientific endeavour.”

The Challenger Deep has only been reached once in a manned descent, on 23 January 1960 by US Navy Lt. Don Walsh and Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard in the bathyscaphe Trieste. They spent approximately 20 minutes on the ocean floor before returning to the surface. Now, 52 years later, Cameron’s DEEPSEA CHALLENGER represents breakthroughs in materials science, unique approaches to structural engineering and new ways of imaging through an ultra-small, full ocean depth-rated stereoscopic camera. Cameron’s CAMERON | PACE Group, which supplies 3-D technologies and production support services, has provided the capability to document the historic expedition in high-resolution 3-D.

“This is an exciting opportunity for both National Geographic and our great explorer, James Cameron, which will lead to unprecedented scientific breakthroughs. The more we learn about our planet, the better our understanding and preservation efforts, championed by our National Geographic Society,” said Thandi Davids, FOX Africa director.

The DEEPSEA CHALLENGE expedition will be chronicled for a 3-D feature film on the intensive technological and scientific efforts behind this historic dive. The event will be documented for the National Geographic Channel and National Geographic magazine. Cameron also will collaborate with National Geographic to create broad-based educational outreach materials.
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