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Director probes depths of Pacific

After diving to the deepest part of the ocean, filmmaker James Cameron said the last frontier on Earth looked a lot like another planet, desolate and foreboding.

Cameron described his three hours on the bottom of the Mariana Trench, nearly seven miles down in a dark freezing and alien place. He is the only person to dive there solo, using a submarine he helped design. He is the first person to reach that depth, 35,576 feet, since it was initially explored in 1960.

Cameron said he worried about being too busy with exploration duties to take in just how amazing the place was. That happened to Apollo astronauts.

So he said he took time to stare at the moon-like barren surface and appreciate how alien it was. "There had to be a moment where I just stopped and took it in and said, 'This is where I am; I'm at the bottom of the ocean, the deepest place on Earth. What does that mean?'" he said after spending three hours at the bottom of the trench.

"I just sat there looking out the window, looking at this barren, desolate lunar plain, appreciating," Cameron said. He also realised how alone he was. "It's really the sense of isolation more than anything, realising how tiny you are down in this big vast black unknown and unexplored place," he said.

He said he had hoped to see some strange deep sea monster, a creature that would excite the storyteller in him, but he did not. All he saw were tiny shrimp-like creatures.

He spent more than three hours at the bottom, longer than the 20 minutes Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard spent in the only other visit 52 years ago. But it was less than the six hours he had hoped. He said he would return. "I see this as the beginning," Cameron said. "This is the beginning of opening up this new frontier."

He spent time filming the Mariana Trench, which is about 200 miles from the Pacific island of Guam. The trip down to the deepest point took two hours and 36 minutes.

His return aboard his 12-ton, lime-green sub called Deepsea Challenger was a "faster-than-expected 70-minute ascent," according to National Geographic, which sponsored the expedition. Cameron is a National Geographic explorer-in-residence.

The only thing that went wrong was the hydraulics on the system to collect rocks and creatures. Just as he was about to take his first sample, a leak in the hydraulic fluid sprayed into the water, and he could not bring anything back.

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