On January 23, 1960 Jacques Piccard of France and Lt Don Walsh of the US Navy descended 10,911 meters (35,797 feet) to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the Challenger Deep. The descent in the Trieste (pictured above) took 4 hours 48 minutes to achieve this feet and they were only able to remain on the bottom for 20 minutes until they had to return to the surface.
That was 52 years ago. No one had been back. Until....
Yesterday James Cameron of Avatar and Titanic fame became the first person to dive solo to The Challenger Deep.
A remarkable achievement by any one. And a new chapter in our exploration of the deepest oceans. We know more about the surface of Mars than we know about what is under our oceans.
In James Cameron's fantasy films, like "Avatar" and "The Abyss," the unexplored is splashed in color and fraught with alien danger. But on his dive to the deepest place on Earth, reality proved far different: white, barren and bland.
Yet otherworldly -- and amazing.
"I felt like I literally, in the space of one day, had gone to another planet and come back," Cameron said Monday after returning from the cold, dark place in the western Pacific Ocean, seven miles (11 1/4 kilometers) below the surface. "It was a very surreal day."
Cameron is the first person to explore the deepest valley in the ocean since two men made a 20-minute foray there more than half a century ago. He spent about three hours gliding through the icy darkness, illuminated only by special lights on the one-man sub he helped design. That was only about half as long as planned because his battery ran low.
This deepest section of the 1,500-mile(2,415-kilometer)-long Mariana Trench is so untouched that at first it appeared dull. But there's something oddly dark and compelling about the first snippets of video that Cameron shot. It's not what you see, but where it puts you. There is a sense of aloneness that Cameron conveys in the wordless video showing his sub gliding across what he calls "the very soft, almost gelatinous flat plain."
"My feeling was one of complete isolation from all of humanity," Cameron said.
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