James Cameron Discovers New Species In Challenger Deep

By Joann Fan email: , Feb 25, 2013 03:38 PM EST

James Cameron's dive to the Challenger Deep (the deepest point in the ocean at 6.8 miles) at the bottom of the Mariana Trench in a self-designed mini-submarine was not just a joyride for the Titanic and Avatar director. He dove more than 10,000 meters in the cramped sub, filming a 3D production for movie theaters as well as a National Geographic TV special.

Cameron managed to capture video footage of what are almost definitely new species, such as a sea cucumber in the Challenger Deep, LiveScience reports. He also caught on film squid worms, which are actually worms several inches in length, with specially adapted feeding appendages that give it a squid-like appearance at first glance. Natalya Gallo, a researcher at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, said that until specimens are collected, these discoveries won't be recorded as new species.

Cameron also caught on video giant amoebas called xenophyophores, which are the largest cells known to humans. There are approximately 42 recognized species of xenophyophores, and they are commonly found on the abyssal plains along the ocean floor.

This trip, taken in March of 2012, was the deepest in 52 years, the New York Times reported. Two men were the first, setting out on their expedition in 1960 and spending 20 minutes at the bottom, although they kicked up so much ooze that photography was impossible.

Cameron had assistance from a team of scientists hailing from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the University of Hawaii and others, and he descended in a narrow steel capsule along its vertical axis, to minimize descent time. On a test trip, one of the minisubmarine's thrusters failed, but he had another 11 to back it up. “Overall the vehicle performed like a champ,” Cameron said. “Plenty of power, and even though I lost one thruster, I still had 11 left, so the massive-redundancy approach worked.”

He hit the bottom of the trench at 5:52 PM on March 25, 2012. “Just arrived at the ocean’s deepest pt,” he tweeted. “Hitting bottom never felt so good. Can’t wait to share what I’m seeing w/ you.”

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