WASHINGTON — The last frontier on Earth is out-of-this-world, desolate, foreboding, and moon-like, James Cameron said after diving to the deepest part of the ocean.
And he loved it.
“My feeling was one of complete isolation from all of humanity,” Cameron said Monday, shortly after returning from the strange cold dark place 7 miles below the western Pacific Ocean that only two men have been to. “I felt like I literally, in the space of one day, had gone to another planet and come back. It’s been a very surreal day.”
Cameron, whose imagination of alien worlds yielded the blockbuster movie “Avatar,” said there was one thing he promised to himself: he wanted to drink in how unusual it is.
He didn’t do that when he first dove to the watery grave of the Titanic, and Apollo astronauts have said they never had time to savor where they were.
“There had to be a moment where I just stopped, and took it in, and said, ’this is where I am; I’m at the bottom of the ocean, the deepest place on Earth. what does that mean?’” Cameron told reporters during a Monday conference call after spending three hours at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, nearly 7 miles down.
“I just sat there looking out the window, looking at this barren, desolate lunar plain, appreciating,” Cameron said.
He also realized how alone he was, with that much water above him.
“It’s really the sense of isolation, more than anything, realizing how tiny you are down in this big vast black unknown and unexplored place,” Cameron said.
Cameron said he had hoped to see a strange deep sea monster like a creature that would excite the storyteller in him and seem like out of his movies, but he didn’t.
He didn’t see tracks of small primitive sea animals on the ocean floor as he did when he dove more than 5 miles deep weeks ago. all he saw were voracious shrimp-like critters that weren’t bigger than an inch. In future missions, Cameron plans to bring “bait” – like chicken – to set out.
Cameron said the mission was all about exploration, science and discovery. he is the only person to dive there solo, using a sub he helped design. he is the first person to reach that depth — 35,576 feet — since it was initially explored in 1960
There had been race to the bottom among rich and famous adventurers. Sir Richard Branson of Virgin industries fame has been building his own one-man sub to explore the depths of the ocean. Branson told The Associated Press on Monday that Cameron’s dive was “a fantastic achievement.”
Branson said he hoped to explore a different deep place first now, instead of the Mariana Trench. he planned later this year to dive to the deepest part of the Atlantic, the Puerto Rican trench, which is only five miles from his home. that area is just shy of six miles deep and has not been explored yet.
Branson said he hopes to take his one-man sub and join Cameron in a tandem dive of solo subs: “Together, we’ll make a formidable team.”
Cameron spent more than three hours at the bottom, longer than the 20 minutes Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard spent in the only other visit 52 years ago. but his time there was shorter than the six hours he had hoped for and he didn’t reach the trench walls, because he was running low on power. he said he would return, as would the sub’s Australian co-designer, Ron Allum.
Director and science nerd James Cameron is making an attempt to travel to the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean. The last time someone tried this was in 1960, when Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard and Navy Lt. Don Walsh spent a weak 20 minutes at the bottom. Cameron plans on filming and exploring for six hours down in the trench, which is a staggering seven miles below sea level.
Cameron is traveling by himself in a one-man submarine called the Deepsea Challenger. The tiny vessel — Cameron calls it a “vertical torpedo” — can withstand the incredible pressure of the deep sea. so, is the king of the world nuts or just curious? Perhaps both, but allow him to explain.
I grew up on a steady diet of science fiction at a time when people where living a science fiction reality. People were going to the Moon, and Cousteau was exploring the ocean. And that’s what I grew up with, what I valued from my childhood.
Cameron plans on releasing a documentary with footage from his journey, and will also be collecting samples for scientists to study. he has a serious trek ahead, but traveling to the bottom of the ocean is still easier than taking a trip to the far-away moon of Pandora.
UPDATE: According to this tweet from the associated Press, Cameron “has reached the deepest spot on Earth.”
[Image via AP]