Movie director James Cameron is poised to win the unofficial submarine race to the bottom of the ocean.
According to news reports, Cameron and a team of scientists are perched atop the Mariana Trench waiting for optimal weather conditions to dive nearly seven miles straight down into the Pacific. If he achieves the feat in his one-seat, lime-green, torpedo-like sub, he will be the first person to visit the ungodly spot in 50 years. He will also edge out fellow multimillionaire explorer Richard Branson and South Florida's local underdogs, Vero Beach-based Triton Submarines. But Cameron could be just the first of thousands of visitors to the trench if Triton Subs president Patrick Lahey gets his way.
"I have no doubt that Jim will get there," Lahey told New Times in January. "But I want to build something commercially viable that people can use safely and predictably."
"Jim is a brilliant guy," Lahey added. "But he'll get there in a one-person sub that will go in a museum when he's done."
Lahey's vessels, however, will open the deep sea to the public. The three-seat, spherical subs could be ready by the end of next year. Triton plans to take tourists two at a time to the trench, and Lahey hopes to sell the transparent-hulled subs to megayacht owners around the world.
"We're interested in getting more people to give a shit about the ocean," Lahey said. "The future of our species depends on it, yet 95 percent of the ocean has never been explored. It really is the last frontier on Earth."
On that point, Lahey and Cameron agree. The Titanic director expects to return with hours of footage and samples of life at the bottom of the ocean, where the pressure is 1,000 times that at the surface -- too great for fish and other more common types of sea life.
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For a look at Cameron's submarine and his imminent expedition to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, check out the National Geographic videos below. Check out our feature on Lahey and the race to the bottom of the ocean here.