The King of the World, at the Bottom of the Sea


Exploring strange, alien frontiers is nothing new to James Cameron – from Aliens to Avatar, he has made billions creating adventures in exotic environments for eager cinema audiences. But last weekend, Cameron went on an adventure all of his own when he brought his cameras to the Challenger Deep, the deepest point of the Mariana Trench, an astonishing 11km below the surface of the Pacific ocean, 300 miles off the coast of Guam.

It might have seemed like the most incongruous piece of billionaire daredevilry in quite a while, but the truth is Cameron has a long-held fascination with the deep blue sea – he made 33 visits to the wreck of the Titanic while researching his 1997 blockbuster on the ill-fated ship, and even more appropriately brought audiences to the very bottom of the ocean floor with The Abyss, his 1989 subaquatic epic that was largely filmed under water.

That film imagined a race of luminescent “non-terrestrial intelligences” encountering oil rig workers on the sea floor. Cameron is a life-long fan of oceanic explorer Jacques Cousteau, and the idea came to the Canadian director when he was a teenager. Of course, it’s one thing to dream about what lies beneath, it’s another thing altogether to turn those dreams into a reality.

“What he’s done is amazing,” says Patrick Collins, a marine scientist at the Ryan Institute in NUI Galway. “You have to remember that Cameron is very well recognised in the deep-sea community for the development of deep-sea sampling equipment and HD cameras, he’s the one who has led the field in these areas.”

Far from being an enthusiastic amateur, then, Cameron is seen as a genuine pioneer. “He’s a serious player – he’s got the enthusiasm, he’s got the know-how, and he’s got vast amounts of money.”

You can read the rest of my article on James Cameron’s voyage here.

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