James Cameron Hits Bottom – of the Ocean

03/26/2012 at 08:15 AM EDT

James Cameron Ocean Dive
James Cameron
Mark Thiessen/National Geographic
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 and Avatar 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

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