'Titanic' director returns from dive to Mariana Trench

James Cameron (L) chats with National Geographic expedition engineers before commencing his dive.

WASHINGTON - "Titanic" director James Cameron has safely returned to the ocean surface after a solo submarine dive to the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean, expedition organisers said late Sunday.

"Jim Cameron has surfaced! Congrats to him on his historic solo dive to the ocean's deepest point," said a Twitter message from Deep Sea Challenge, which organised the dive.

Mission partner the National Geographic said Cameron had reached the depth of 35,756 feet (10,898m) at 7:52 am Monday local time (5.52 am Singapore time) in the Mariana Trench in his specially designed submersible.

Cameron is the first person to make a solo dive to the Pacific Ocean valley known as the Challenger Deep, southwest of Guam. And the last dive of any kind there was a relatively brief two-person team back in 1960.

He spent several hours on the Pacific Ocean sea floor, collecting samples for scientific research and taking still photographs and moving images.

The research vessels Mermaid Sapphire and Barakuda waited for him on the surface during the dive.

"We're now a band of brothers and sisters that have been through this for a while," marine biologist Doug Bartlett told National Geographic from the ship before the dive.

Cameron's goal was to bring back data and specimens from the unexplored territory. He is expected to announce the results of the experiment later.

Upon touchdown, Cameron's first target was a phone booth-like unmanned "lander" dropped into the trench hours before his dive.

The submersible that Cameron designed, a "vertical torpedo" of sorts, had already successfully completed an unpiloted dive on Friday.

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