James Cameron's trip to the depths

TOM HUNT
Last updated 12:26 04/12/2012

James Cameron back from the abyss

James Cameron at Te Papa
ROSS GIBLIN/Fairfax NZ
James Cameron, right, delivered a talk about his deep-sea exploration at the International Deep-Sea Biology Symposium at Te Papa. With him are NIWA's Ashley Rowden, left, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute's Tim Shank.

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Hollywood director James Cameron made an appearance in Wellington today to discuss a part of the planet he is among the only people to have seen first-hand.

Cameron, best known for movies Avatar and Titanic, appeared as a speaker at the International Deep-Sea Biology Symposium at Te Papa this morning.

Speaking to a packed Soundings Theatre, Cameron had the scientific credentials to impress a room full of underwater scientists.

In March he piloted his self-designed ''vertical torpedo'' submarine 11 kilometres below the water's surface to the bottom of the Mariana Trench's Challenger Deep, the planet's deepest point.

Fittingly for a film-maker-turned-explorer, the dive was filmed in 3-D and photographed in high-definition.

He managed to film and photograph spectacular life forms deep beneath the ocean surface, far surpassing images taken when the only other manned Challenger Deep dive took place in 1960s.

Cameron also collected scientific data, much of which is due to be released tomorrow in the United States.

As the 12-tonne submarine plunged beneath the surface, Cameron had moments of contemplation among the science.

After passing the 8000 metre mark, where other test dives had him busy with tests and checks, he had nothing to do for the further 3000m dive to the bottom except think ''about pressure building up on the hull''.

During his three hours at the bottom, gathering data and specimens, he also had time to ''smell the roses''.

''I sat for 10 minutes and looked out the window and thought about where I was and what it meant ... arguably the most remote part of the planet.''

While hailed as a successful dive, the trip was not without glitches.

At the last minute, a damaged ballast system had to be removed and a robotic arm lost hydraulic power at the bottom.

And likewise, today had its own glitches - a video presentation he had prepared to accompany his presentation and sent to Park Rd Post in Miramar failed to arrive.

But Cameron promised it could arrive at any time during the presentation.

''If that doesn't happen I will be up here tap dancing.''

The video did turn up, and the scientists got what they wanted - images from the deepest depths of our planet.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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