THE muses for some of his greatest cinematographic successes lie deep below the waves, but now, film director James Cameron plans to explore even further into the watery unknown.
He is about to set out for the deepest point of the world's oceans in a submersible in which he will hardly be able to move.
The director of Titanic and The Abyss will attempt to lead only the second manned expedition to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, seven miles below the surface of the western Pacific Ocean, where the pressure will be equivalent to 1.1 tonnes per square centimetre - a little less than the weight of two small cars.
"Every single dive, I'm going to see something no one's ever seen before," said Cameron, a longtime fan of deep-sea exploration.
"I'm going to do my best to image it, light it properly, bring it back in 3D - grab samples if I can, grab rocks if I can.
"We are there to do science, but we are also there to take the average person who only imagines these things and show them what it is really like."
When he arrives in the trench, Cameron will be boldly going where very few indeed have gone before.
"More people have been on the Moon than have been to the deepest part of the ocean," said Dr Carol Turley of the Plymouth Marine Laboratory.
"There is little knowledge and it is exciting to think of what might be found."
The only previous manned dive to the bottom of the trench, 35,814 feet below sea level, was led by former US Navy captain Don Walsh and Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard, in 1960.
Through the cracked window of their submersible, they reported seeing a dark brown "diatomaceous ooze" covering the sea floor, along with shrimp and some fish that appeared to resemble flounder and sole.
Cameron has enlisted many of the teams he used to make his films for help in his own attempt.
But he will be cramped during his nine-hour descent.
His bright green submersible - the Challenger Deep - weighs 11 tonnes and is more than 7m long, but has an internal compartment measuring only 109cm across.
Its small diameter means Cameron will barely be able to move his arms and will have to keep his legs bent.
And while the director said he hopes to observe the trench floor, the amount of wildlife he is expected to find there is extremely limited.
An unmanned mission in 2009 found only six animal species, including worms, sea cucumbers and crustaceans.
Steve McPhail, an expert on submersibles at the National Oceanography Centre at the University of Southampton, said: "The pressure is enormous at that depth and you have to take all of your energy with you.
"So the submersible will rely on at least two dry areas, one for the pilot [Cameron] and one for its power supply."
The Mariana Trench lies off the coast of the island of Guam.
A small valley named Challenger Deep is the deepest part of the ocean, and Cameron's target.
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