What James Cameron Found at the Deepest Known Point in the Ocean

Erin McCarthy

When Titanic and Avatar director James Cameron surfaced from his record-breaking solo dive to the deepest known point in the world’s oceans, Challenger Deep, on March 26 this year, he said the environment was “bleak” and “looked like the moon.” But a look the preliminary results of that trip—and unmanned trips after it—presented at the American Geophysical Union on December 4 show that life does thrive 35,803 feet below the surface. In the video below, Cameron speaks with National Geographic about what he found.

In addition to deep-sea microbial mats—filament-like clumps of microorganisms living off altered rock in the Mariana Trench's subduction zone—7-inch-long amphipods (shrimp-like crustaceans) were captured, and xenophyophores (giant amoeba) were seen. Approximately 20,000 microbes pulled up from the trench are being looked over and will undergo genetic analysis.

Cameron made the trip in a vessel he helped design. The Deepsea Challenger is equipped with a steel sphere built to withstand the intense pressures at that depth, plus an instrument suite for collecting samples, and, of course, high definition 3D cameras.