Changing Planet

James Cameron Gives DEEPSEA CHALLENGER Sub to Woods Hole

Filmmaker and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence James Cameron made history one year ago when he became the first person to reach the bottom of the ocean by himself, in his high-tech sub DEEPSEA CHALLENGER (learn all about the groundbreaking project on the official website).

To mark the one-year anniversary of that voyage, Cameron has now announced that he is donating the craft to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), one of the world’s leaders in ocean exploration.

The DEEPSEA CHALLENGER sub is headed to Woods Hole. Illustration by Acheron Project Pty Ltd

“Cameron will transfer the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER to Woods Hole, where WHOI scientists and engineers will work with Cameron and his team to incorporate the  sub’s numerous engineering advancements into future research platforms and deep-­sea expeditions,” Woods Hole announced in a statement today.

“This partnership harnesses the power of public and private investment in supporting deep-ocean  science,” Cameron said in the statement.

“The seven years we spent designing and building the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER were dedicated to expanding the options available to deep-­ocean researchers,” he added. “Our sub is a scientific proof-of-concept, and our partnership with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a way to provide the technology we developed to the oceanographic community.”

Cameron recently told National Geographic News that part of his goal in the project was advancing ocean research technology.  “The cameras, the lights, the syntactic foam, that could be advantageous to other exploration platforms—AUVs [autonomous underwater vehicles] or ROVs [remotely operated vehicles] or piloted subs—whatever the research community needs,” he told Jane Lee.

“We spent seven years creating ahead-of-the-curve materials and new photographic systems. What I hope to do in the near future is to get that all under the umbrella of researchers who can use it,” he said.

Last year, Cameron descended 35,787 feet (almost 11,000 meters) to the deepest place on Earth—the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench.


Brian Clark Howard covers the environment for National Geographic. He previously served as an editor for and E/The Environmental Magazine, and has written for Popular Science,,,, Yahoo!, MSN, and elsewhere. He is the co-author of six books, including Geothermal HVACGreen LightingBuild Your Own Small Wind Power System, and Rock Your Ugly Christmas Sweater.

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