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Exploring the Deepest Depths

On Monday James Cameron, famed Canadian director of the two highest grossing films in history (Avatar and Titanic), made the first privately-funded and second-ever manned dive to the deepest part of the Marianas Trench in the Pacific Ocean. The dive was the result of a years-long project privately funded by Cameron himself to construct a vessel capable not only of withstanding the tremendous pressure at such depths, but of filming the entire voyage in 3D.

The first manned voyage to the bottom of the Marianas Trench, which measures nearly seven miles deep, was part of a long history of scientific projects during the Cold War. Project Nekton was the name given to the series of test dives and deep sea dives by the bathyscaphe Trieste, owned by the United States Navy. On January 23, 1960, Trieste, crewed by Lt. Don Walsh and Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard, reached the bottom of the Marianas Trench and spent about 20 minutes exploring its unknown depths.

A model of the Trieste, here presented to The Mariners’ Museum Assistant Director Harold S. Sniffen in 1961, is currently on display in The Mariners’ Museum Defending the Seas exhibit

Don Walsh, now 80 years old, was present at sea for Cameron’s solo voyage, which lasted more than 6 hours. After spending over 4 hours at the bottom of the deepest known part of Earth’s oceans in his craft Deepsea Challenger, Cameron remarked, “I really feel like in one day I’ve been to another planet and come back”.

Cameron plans to release a documentary film with the 3D footage of the dive. I for one cannot wait to see the incredible footage, some of which can already be found online. If you would like to learn more about the Trieste and the original voyage to the deepest ocean, check out Seven Miles Down: the story of the bathyscaph Trieste, written by Jacques Piccard himself. Seven Miles Down is available here in the Library’s collections.

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