James Cameron Donates Record-Breaking Sub To Science

Exactly one year ago this week, filmmaker James Cameron etched his name in the history books by becoming just the third person to ever visit the bottom of the Mariana Trench. To celebrate the anniversary of this impressive feat, the man behind such Hollywood hits as Avatar and Titanic showed his philanthropic side by donating his state-of-the-art submersible to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to exploring the depths of the Earth’s oceans. Cameron’s record breaking dive took him seven miles beneath the surface and into the Challenger Deep, the lowest place on our planet. While there, he collected samples from the ocean floor and shot video for an upcoming 3D documentary about the project. His journey also provided oceanographers a glimpse into a world that is seldom seen, while simultaneously inspiring explorers across the globe.

In order to make this historic voyage to the bottom of the sea, Cameron dedicated seven years of his life and $8 million toward developing the submersible which carried him safely to the ocean depths and back again. Dubbed the Deepsea Challenger, the tiny underwater vehicle features an advanced lighting system designed to specifically illuminate the depths of the Pacific Ocean and a high tech array of video cameras for capturing footage from the trench. Cameron oversaw every step of the subs construction and  played an important role in its development, just so he could personally pilot it to a place that had only been visited by man on one previous occasion.

Now that he has turned his attention to developing the two upcoming Avatar sequels, Cameron no longer has time to plumb the ocean depths. So, with that in mind , on Tuesday, he officially donated the Deepsea Challenger to the WHOI. The institute will now use the sub for its own projects, which includes exploration of trenches in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The filmmaker has also joined the organization’s advisory board where he will work with their engineers in adapting his lighting and camera systems to their own needs. He’ll also help researchers to understand other technologies that went into the construction of the sub, which could lead to the development of new manned and robotic vehicles.

Cameron hasn’t completely ruled out making more dives in the future however as he remains an explorer at heart. It’s hard not to respect a guy whose day job pays him millions of dollars and yet all he wants to do in his free time is help expand our understanding of the Earth’s oceans.

[Photo Credit: Mark Thiessen/National Geographic]