James Cameron designed his own sub, the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER, to take him down to the Mariana Trench.
James Cameron designed his own sub, the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER, to take him down to the Mariana Trench.

Voyage to the Deep

For years he dreamed of diving to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the deepest spot in the ocean. But to make it happen, explorer and filmmaker James Cameron had to design and build his own vehicle, a futuristic submersible called DEEPSEA CHALLENGER. After seven years spent on research, design, and testing, one question remained: Could the sub survive the crushing pressure at 36,000 feet? As he neared the end of a two-month expedition, Cameron was staking his life on the answer.

The village chief, a wispy fellow with an easy smile and snowy muttonchops, came aboard James Cameron’s expedition ship in Papua New Guinea with an entourage. The five young men who attended him called him Big Man, a term of respect. The Big Man spoke in a local dialect, but his meaning came across. Who are you, he asked Cameron, and what are you doing here?

Cameron smiled. “C’mon,” he said. “I’ll show you.”

He led the Big Man and his entourage to where DEEPSEA CHALLENGER, a sleek, 24-foot submersible, rested in its cradle. In a few days Cameron planned to deploy the craft in a deep seafloor trench off the coast, a shakedown run for the big dive to come in the Mariana Trench. The chief ’s eyes widened. His men ran their hands over the vehicle’s brilliant green composite skin. With its blinking battery array and robotic limbs, the machine could have been mistaken for a spaceship.

Read This Next

Why kids need their own COVID-19 vaccine trials

A black-footed ferret has been cloned, a first for a U.S. endangered species

3-ton parts of Stonehenge may have been carried from earlier monuments

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet