James Cameron talks deep sea dive: 'I'm a curious monkey'

James Cameron emerges from the Deepsea Challenger after his successful solo dive to the Mariana Trench. Photo/AP
James Cameron emerges from the Deepsea Challenger after his successful solo dive to the Mariana Trench. Photo/AP

Two years after completing the first one-person voyage to the deepest part of the ocean, Hollywood director James Cameron's 3D underwater plunge is splashing into overseas theatres.

Deepsea Challenge chronicles Cameron's submarine descent into the western Pacific's Mariana Trench, a barren underwater moonscape where "squid worms" and other creatures flit past the window on the record-breaking odyssey.

The Titanic and Avatar director said at a screening at the American Museum of Natural History in New York that he has been "continuously inspired by the oceans" since a boy.

"I'm a curious monkey and I need to go and see by myself," he told some 1000 fans, many of them children, who came to see the film at the museum's LeFrak Theater.

The 11-kilometre voyage to the Challenger Deep valley of the Mariana Trench, which lies southwest of Guam, was the first manned expedition in more than half a century and the culmination of more than seven years of planning.

The March 2012 journey took two hours and 36 minutes, according to the mission organised with National Geographic.

It was carried out in a submarine christened the Deepsea Challenger, which was equipped with 3D cameras and powerful lights to illuminate the sunless depths.

The Mariana Trench, a crescent-shaped scar in the Earth's crust, measures more than 2550 kilometres long and 69 kilometers wide on average.

It's "unbelievable, it's like the moon," Cameron said in the film upon seeing the Challenger Deep's desolate seascape.

Cramped in the 26-metre submarine's cockpit, the Canadian filmmaker filmed and collected biological and geological specimens on the ocean floor, 68 of which have never been seen before.

The specimens were just a tiny array from a few meters of terrain that Cameron said was "the size of North America" stretching across the ocean floor.

The film, which lasts 90 minutes and was made in collaboration with National Geographic, hits mainstream US theatres on Friday, having made its rounds at various film festivals.

Cameron is the first person to have made a solo dive to the Pacific Ocean trench, traveling in a submarine he designed and built in Sydney, Australia.

The director, who has gone on a multitude of dives, including 12 while filming Titanic, said he wants to return to the Mariana Trench, but would like to do it with "new technology" to get more out of the expedition.

"There's so much to see," he said.

The last dive of any kind to the area was made by a two-man team in a relatively brief expedition in 1960, during which American Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard of Switzerland were unable to see anything due to mud.

- AFP

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