Continued from page 1

Cameron said he had hoped to see some sort of strange deep sea creature that would excite the storyteller in him, but he didn’t.

He didn’t see tracks of small primitive sea animals on the ocean floor, as he did when he dove more than five miles down several weeks ago. All he saw was voracious shrimp-like critters no bigger than an inch. In future missions, Cameron plans to bring “bait” _ like chicken _ to set out.

Cameron said the mission was all about exploration, science and discovery. He is the only person to dive there solo, using a lime-green sub called Deepsea Challenger. He is the first person to reach that depth _ 35,576 feet _ since it was initially explored in 1960.

There had been a race to reach the bottom among rich and famous adventurers. Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, has been building his own one-man sub to explore the ocean depths. Cameron’s dive was “a fantastic achievement,” Branson told The Associated Press.

Branson said he hoped to be the first to explore a different deep-sea location, diving later this year to the deepest part of the Atlantic, the Puerto Rican trench, which is only five miles from his home. Just shy of six miles deep, the area has not been explored yet.

Branson also hopes to join Cameron in a tandem dive of solo subs. “Together, we’ll make a formidable team,” he said.

While Cameron’s dive was far longer than that of U.S. Navy Capt. Don Walsh and Swiss engineer Jacques Piccard 52 years ago, he didn’t reach the trench walls because he was running low on battery power. He said he would return, as would the sub’s Australian co-designer, Ron Allum.

“I see this as the beginning,” Cameron said. “It’s not a one-time deal and then moving on. This is the beginning of opening up this new frontier.”

“To me, the story is in the people in their quest and curiosity and their attempt to understand.”

The trip to the deepest point took two hours and 36 minutes and started Sunday afternoon, U.S. East Coast time.

His return aboard his 12-ton sub 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 a hydraulic failure that kept Cameron from collecting rocks and critters and bringing them back to land.

Science like this takes time, but Cameron is committed to doing it, said Woods Hole’s Bowen, who ran a program that sent an unmanned sub to the same place in 2009.

“The reality of exploring such an environment is that at times it can be very boring; exploring these environments isn’t always about some dramatic highly visual discovery,” Bowen said. “The scientific process is exhausting and sometimes it takes a significant amount of sweat, if you will, to uncover secrets.”

Cameron did sweat _ and shiver.

Story Continues →