James Cameron to dive the Mariana Trench

Legendary director James Cameron is no stranger to big adventures. After all he is the man responsible for bringing such Hollywood hits as Titanic and Avatar to the silver screen. Last week Cameron announced plans for a big adventure of his own, saying he now plans to dive to the lowest point on the planet, which is found at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

Located in the Pacific Ocean, the mysterious trench stretches 1580 miles in length and plunges nearly seven miles below the Earth’s surface. Using specially designed equipment, Cameron plans to spend about six hours at the Challenger Deep, the absolute lowest point inside the trench. While there he’ll collect samples for use in research in marine biology, microbiology, geology, and a host of other scientific fields.

Cameron has partnered with National Geographic and Rolex for this expedition, which he calls “DeepSea Challenge.” The filmmaker plans to shoot the entire experience with 3D HD cameras for use in a future documentary on the voyage, which will be made in a submersible that has been specifically built to withstand the incredible pressures that exist inside the trench. That vehicle was built by Cameron and his team and has already been tested to a depth of five miles.The bottom of the Mariana Trench has only been visited by humans on one previous occasion. In January of 1960 ocean explorers Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard made their way to those incredible depths where they were surprised to find a number of lifeforms thriving.

There is no specific date set for Cameron’s dive, but he is currently in Guam making last minute preparations. Follow the entire adventure on the DeepSea Challenge website.

[Photo courtesy National Geographic]

China renames mountain that inspired Avatar

While James Cameron’s latest epic, Avatar, continues to smash box office records around the globe, a remote Chinese mountain has been renamed to honor the film, and no doubt attract fans of Pandora in the process.

Located in the Zhangjiajie region of the Hunan province, the mountain was formerly known as the “Southern Sky Column”. Local officials claim that the rocky spire was the inspiration for the floating “Hallelujah Mountains”, the mystical floating peaks that are prominent in Avatar.

According to this story from Reuters, a Hollywood photographer was in the area in 2008 capturing the look of the mountain from a variety of angles. Those photos would later be used to construct the flying mountains of Pandora that would later appear in full 3D on the silver screen.

This past Monday a ceremony was held in Zhangjiajie to officially rename the peak “Avatar Hallelujah Mountain”, and the local tourism board is hoping that fans of the blockbuster film will want to come visit the place for themselves. The mountain is located in the Wulingyan National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is home to more than 3000 similar peaks. Reportedly, local tourist agencies have already begun to offer “Avatar-Pandora Tours”, taking visitors to see the mountain, promising to deliver a bit of Pandora here on Earth.

As of this writing, Avatar has earned more than $80 million in China, making it the most popular film of all time in that country. Earlier this week, the film also passed the $1.84 billion mark in box office receipts, surpassing Titanic as the highest grossing film in history.

Jesus’ Bones Tour

If you missed the press conference at the New York Public Library, where filmmaker James Cameron announced his new Discovery Channel movie, you might want to read up and do a little digging yourself.

If you hadn’t heard the hype, Cameron’s movie The Lost Tomb of Jesus, airs this Sunday. In it, he apparently argues that a couple of caskets, ossuaries actually, once contained the bones of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Not only that, but, ala Dan Brown, he suggests they were a family…with children. The ossuaries made the trip for the press conference (hopefully not on JetBlue), as did a few experts.

Now, the discovery of the ossuaries is not new. They were found in 1980 in a Jerusalem ‘suburb’ of Talpiot. And, forgetting the multiple controversies that surround the whole thing (including the assertion by the lead archaeologist that the movie’s claims are baloney), you can visit the town yourself.

The modern town is pure 20th century, and includes a vibrant club culture (where you can shake your own bones), but there’s also more distant culture and history. For example, walk along the Haas Promenade for sweeping views of the old city.