It appears that James Cameron's epic dive 36,000 feet to the bottom of the Mariana Trench might be in jeopardy.
A source reportedly close to the expedition recently told the website Coming Attractions that the magnitude 9.0 earthquake that struck off the coast of Japan earlier this month is causing planners to reconsider the director's dive proposal.
It was widely reported late last year that the 56-year-old explorer/director was building a submersible to take him to the bottom of the trench — a feat last achieved in 1960. Cameron revealed that the two-seater submersible would be fitted with a heating system and 3-D cameras to capture pictures of the depths for a sequel to "Avatar."
The real danger is the copious aftershocks that now rumble through the western Pacific in the wake of the monster quake. Scientists expect that those aftershocks could continue for years. At a depth nearly a mile deeper than Mount Everest is high, any falling rock from tectonic shifting could prove disastrous. According to the source, even finding an insurance company willing to cover the liability of the expedition would be near impossible.
Still, while Cameron's quest to shoot scenes for the film in the deepest part of the ocean may be shot, there's no real reason to doubt that production on "Avatar 2" will slow down. If anything, I imagine a robotic submersible could always be sent down to film the underwater world. There are also plenty of other strange creatures previously documented from which to draw inspiration.
In the end, Cameron will probably end up doing what he wants; but whether it's this year or a decade from now, you can bet he'll eventually touch down, 35,994 feet below the ocean's surface. The guy is an explorer just as much as he's a director — and for people of that nature, setbacks like this only allow more time to plan and perfect. Stay tuned.