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James Cameron's Mariana Trench Dive Reaches Successful Conclusion

03/25/12 11:21 PM ET AP

HONOLULU — Hollywood icon James Cameron has completed his journey to Earth's deepest point.

The director of "Titanic," "Avatar" and other films used a specially designed submarine to dive nearly seven miles. He spent time exploring and filming the Mariana Trench, about 200 miles southwest of the Pacific island of Guam, according to members of the National Geographic expedition.

Cameron returned to the surface of the Pacific Ocean on Monday morning local time, Sunday evening on the U.S. East Coast, according to Stephanie Montgomery of the National Geographic Society.

He spent a little more than three hours under water after reaching a depth of 35,756 feet before he began his return to the surface, according to information provided by the expedition team. He had planned to spend up to six hours on the sea floor.

Cameron's return aboard his 12-ton, lime-green sub called Deepsea Challenger was a "faster-than-expected 70-minute ascent," according to National Geographic.

There were no immediate reports regarding Cameron's well-being. A medical team was present when Cameron, 57, emerged from the sub, according to the expedition.

Expedition physician Joe MacInnis told National Geographic News before the journey that recent test dives, including one that went more than five miles deep, had gone well and that he expected Cameron would be fine.

"Jim is going to be a little bit stiff and sore from the cramped position, but he's in really good shape for his age, so I don't expect any problems at all," said MacInnis, a long-time Cameron friend, according to National Geographic.

The scale of the trench is hard to grasp – it's 120 times larger than the Grand Canyon and more than a mile deeper than Mount Everest is tall.

"It's really the first time that human eyes have had an opportunity to gaze upon what is a very alien landscape," said Terry Garcia, the National Geographic Society's executive VP for mission programs, via phone from Scotland.

Swiss engineer Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh, a U.S. Navy captain, are the only others to reach the spot. They spent about 20 minutes there during their 1960 dive but couldn't see much after their sub kicked up sand from the sea floor.

One of the risks of a dive so deep was extreme water pressure. At 6.8 miles below the surface, the pressure is the equivalent of three SUVs sitting on your toe.

Cameron told The Associated Press in an interview after a 5.1 mile-deep practice run near Papua New Guinea earlier this month that the pressure "is in the back of your mind." The submarine would implode in an instant if it leaked, he said.

But while he was a little apprehensive beforehand, he wasn't scared or nervous while underwater.

"When you are actually on the dive you have to trust the engineering was done right," he said.

The film director has been an oceanography enthusiast since childhood and has made 72 deep-sea submersible dives. Thirty-three of those dives have been to the wreckage of the Titanic, the subject of his 1997 hit film, which is being released in a 3-D version next month.

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GALLERY: PHOTOS OF CAMERON'S DIVES
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  • This February 2012 file photo provided by National Geographic, shows explorer and filmmaker James Cameron emerging from the hatch of DEEPSEA CHALLENGER during testing of the submersible in Jervis Bay, south of Sydney, Australia. Cameron on Sunday, March 25, 2012 began his journey to someplace only two men have gone before �-- to the Earth's deepest point. The director of "Titanic," ''Avatar" and other films is using the specially designed submarine to descend nearly seven miles (11 kilometers) to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, an area 200 miles (320 kilometers) southwest of the Pacific island of Guam. (AP Photo/National Geographic, Mark Thiessen, File)

  • In this photo provided by National Geographic, filmmaker and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence James Cameron gets a handshake from ocean explorer and U.S. Navy Capt. Don Walsh, right, just before the hatch on the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER submersible is closed and the voyage to the deepest part of the ocean begins, Sunday, March 25, 2012. Walsh took the same journey to the bottom of the Mariana Trench 52 years ago in the bathyscaphe Trieste with Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard. Cameron is the first person to complete the dive solo. The dive was part of DEEPSEA CHALLENGE, a joint scientific expedition by Cameron, the National Geographic Society and Rolex to conduct deep-ocean research. (AP Photo/National Geographic, Mark Thiessen) MANDATORY CREDIT

  • In this photo provided by National Geographic, the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER submersible carrying filmmaker and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence James Cameron is hoisted into the Pacific Ocean on its way to the "Challenger Deep," the deepest part of the Mariana Trench, Sunday, March 25, 2012. The dive was part of DEEPSEA CHALLENGE, a joint scientific expedition by Cameron, the National Geographic Society and Rolex to conduct deep-ocean research. (AP Photo/National Geographic, Mark Thiessen) MANDATORY CREDIT

  • This February 2012 handout photo provided by National Geographic shows the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER submersible begining its first test dive off the coast of Papua New Guinea. Earth's lost frontier, the deepest part of the oceans where the pressure is like three SUVs sitting on your little tow, is about to be explored first-hand. It's been more than half a century since man dared to plunge that deep. Earth's lost frontier is about to be explored firsthand after more than half a century. It's a mission to the deepest part of the ocean, so deep that the pressure is the equivalent of three SUVs sitting on your toe. And it's being launched by the rich and famous. In the next several days, James Cameron, the director of �"Titanic,�" �"Avatar�" and �"The Abyss,�" plans to dive nearly 7 miles deep in a one-man sub he helped design. The location is the Mariana Trench in the South Pacific. �"It's the last frontier for science and exploration on this planet,�" Cameron said. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen, National Geographic)

  • In an image provided by National Geographic filmmaker James Cameron gives two thumbs-up as he emerges from the Deepsea Challenger submersible Monday March 26, 2012 after his successful solo dive in the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean. The dive was part of Deepsea Challenge, a joint scientific expedition by Cameron, the National Geographic Society and Rolex to conduct deep-ocean research. (AP Photo/Mark Theissen, National Geographic)

  • Filmmaker and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence James Cameron emerges from the Deepsea Challenger submersible after his successful solo dive to the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean, Monday March 26, 2011. The dive was part of Deepsea Challenge, a joint scientific expedition by Cameron, the National Geographic Society and Rolex to conduct deep-ocean research. (AP Photo/Mark Theissen, National Geographic) ONE TIME USE

  • In a photo provided by National Geographic filmmaker and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence James Cameron holds the National Geographic Society flag after he successfully completed the first ever solo dive to the Mariana Trench Monday March 26, 2012. The dive was part of Deepsea Challenge, a joint scientific expedition by Cameron, the National Geographic Society and Rolex to conduct deep-ocean research. (AP Photo/Mark Theissen, National Geographic)

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Filed by Chris Gentilviso  |