Mark Thiessen/National Geographic
03/26/2012 AT 08:15 AM EDT
Hollywood filmmaker James Cameron's career in scientific research went into a steep decline Monday, exactly as he planned it.
The Oscar-winning director of Titanic
became the first human to make a solo trip to the deepest part of the ocean – the so-called Challenger Deep spot, part of the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific Ocean, near Guam.
Cameron, 57, descended for two hours and 36 minutes and reached the spot at 7:52 a.m. local time Monday (5:52 p.m. ET Sunday), CNN
reports. He spent two hours observing and collecting samples of material for research and then resurfaced after a 70-minute ascent.
On the eve of his deep-sea mission, Cameron told PEOPLE: "It has been seven years just getting to this point. I started working on the sub when I was still finishing Avatar
, so let's see."
"Just arrived at the ocean's deepest pt," Cameron tweeted
when he reached Challenger Deep. "Hitting bottom never felt so good. Can't wait to share what I'm seeing w/ you."
Cameron made the trip in the Deepsea Challenger, a high-tech submersible that he and a team of engineers built over the past seven years – and which can withstand up to 16,000 pounds per square inch of pressure.
The director, whose Titanic
is being re-released in 3D on April 4, is fond of deep water. He spent his 56th birthday, back in August 2010, with a voyage to the bottom of Russia's Lake Baikal,
the world's oldest and deepest lake.
Reporting by MONIQUE JESSEN