Hollywood director James Cameron has returned to the surface after plunging seven miles down to the deepest place in the ocean, the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific, becoming the first solo person to do so.
He made the solo descent in a submarine called “Deepsea Challenger”, taking over two hours to reach the bottom, where he spent more than three hours exploring the ocean floor, before a speedy 70 minute ascent back to the surface.
His craft was kitted out with cameras and lights so he could film the deep and also take scientific samples. While places like the Mariana Trench were once thought to be of little interest, there has been a recent resurgence of scientific interest in the deep.
Scientists are finding life that can resist the colossal pressures, from deep-sea fish to shrimp-like scavengers called amphipods, some of which can reach 30cm (1ft) long.
They are also trying to understand the role that deep seas trenches play in earthquakes – these cracks in the sea floor are formed at the boundary of two tectonic plates and some believe the push and pull taking place deep underwater could be the cause of major earthquakes, such as the 2011 quake that resulted in such devastation in Japan.
This is only the second manned expedition to the ocean’s deepest depths – the first took place in 1960.
The earlier descent was made by US Navy Lt Don Walsh and Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard. They spent about 20 minutes on the ocean floor but their landing kicked up silt, meaning their view was obscured.
Before the dive, the Titanic director told the BBC that making the descent was “the fulfilment of a dream”. He said: “I grew up on a steady diet of science fiction at a time when people were 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.”