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World looks toward Marianas Islands...Cameron conquers the Trench
Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - 9:02 PM

Guam AP-Breaking News...James Cameron beats field to

Dane Hodges swims his native Marianas Trench National Monument

 the bottom of the Marianas Trench National Marine Monument

Saipan AP-Dane Hodges optimistic after Trench race loss

Saipan - AP More breaking news 6-1-12...China to send Sea Dragon to bottom on marianas Trench...see bottom of this blog

James Cameron has made it to the bottom of Challenger Deep, the deepest point in the ocean, and the world turns its eyes on America’s Wonder of the World, the Marianas Trench National Monument in the Marianas Islands SW of Guam, Rota, Tinian, and Saipan.

Dane Hodges plays on the beach near the Marianas Trench Monument

‘It was bleak. It looked like the moon. I didn’t see a fish. I didn’t see anything that looked alive to me, other than a few shrimplike amphipods in the water,’ he added.

Cameron, who knows a little about alien worlds having made the movie Avatar, said when he got to this strange cold, dark place seven miles below the western Pacific Ocean that only two other men have been to, there was one thing he promised to himself - he wanted to drink in how unusual it is.

He didn't do that when he first dove to the watery grave of the Titanic, and Apollo astronauts have said they never had time to savor where they were.

Dane's Mom blue water snorkels the Marianas Trench

‘There had to be a moment where I just stopped, and took it in, and said, “This is where I am. I'm at the bottom of the ocean, the deepest place on Earth. What does that mean?”’ Cameron told reporters after spending three hours at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, nearly seven miles down.

‘I just sat there looking out the window, looking at this barren, desolate lunar plain, appreciating,’ James Cameron

Dane Hodges sails to the Marianas Trench National Monument from Saipan

Cameron beat back a field of challengers racing to the bottom including an unknown challenge plotting against them.   

A last minute impromptu plan to send six year old competitor, Dane Hodges of Saipan, in a homemade craft modeled after the original 1960 US Navy assault on the Trench by Jacques Piccard and Lieutenant Don Walsh in the Trieste.  Dane's team planned to use the element of surprise against a field more experienced players.  "Piccard and Walsh kept it quick and simple, and that was one of our goals" commented an optimistic Dane Hodges watching the news from Saipan, "we just couldn't get it done", added the young competitor.  "We didn't want to bounce on the bottom and sit in black silt for 20 minutes either" a slightly disheartened youngster told the local news media, "we wanted to do more, we planned to be dragged about 6 miles at 30 feet above the bottom with lights and cameras forward and least that was the goal" shared the gallant young explorer.

Dane Hodges takes a dip to cool off after losing "the Marianas Trench race"

Cameron's trip marks first solo dive to the Challenger Deep, and only the second visit by humans. In 1960, the US Navy sent the submersible Trieste and its two-man crew to the bottom there.

More trips are in the offing this year by various groups aiming to take people into the Challenger Deep or other parts of the Mariana Trench.

One of these efforts include Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Oceanic sub, which like Cameron's Deepsea Challenger, is a single-seater. Several of the marine scientists who have worked with Cameron also are working with Mr. Branson's group. 

Dane Hodges fishes quietly alone on the eve of Cameron decent

Another surprize entrant is Dane Hodges, whose target date of June 15 is on schedule but admitted funding and legal issues are major concerns.  "The Trench scheme is off" Dane's mother was quoted "he hiked to Bird Island the morning Cameron reached the bottom, so he has forgotten the race" she added.  Dane's mother had threatened court action to stop the mission, but his father has taken a proceed with caution and pursue all options approach.  Dane's parents, oddly enough, were married underwater and filmed by a commercial submarine a decade ago.

Dane Hodges has the con, Saipan, CNMI

Dane Hodges plays in the turquoise Sea of Saipan near the Marianas Trench Monument

Heading out of Saipan to the Marianas Trench


What happened when five individuals or groups, 3 rich explorers, the military of an emerging superpower, and an intrepid youngster who coincidently lives in the Trench rim all want to get to the same frontier of exploration? You got it, a race! And who were these explorers? Richard Branson, the flamboyant owner of the Virgin group of companies - which includes Virgin Atlantic and Virgin records; James Cameron - the director of the blockbuster hit Avatar and the ultimate winner; a Florida businessman, Bruce Jones who has built the Triton 36,000. The Triton 36,000 plans to take tourists to the Mariana Trench for $250,000 a pop, the Chinese military who recently sent a craft to 5000 meters, and Dane Hodges, an unlikely youngster who resides in Saipan, just NE of Challenger Deep.

No one has been down there since 1960, when, just once, a team reached that deepest point on earth. 
On 23rd January, 1960, two other intrepid adventurers – Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard – sat in a steel submersible called Trieste and started descending. Down, down, down they went, somewhere off the coast of Guam in the North Pacific Ocean. Their goal was to land at the deepest part of the ocean bed, Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench.
Going where no man has gone before... or since!
Back then, exactly how deep the trench was, was not known. When Walsh and Piccard touched down in a cloud of ocean-bed dust, the depth gauge read 10,911m – a little less than seven miles under water. Above them was a good 200,000 tons of water! With that kind of pressure comes a great deal of danger and when Walsh and Piccard set out, they were not sure they would make it back. If the Trieste had not held up, they would have been crushed at such depths. And yet, they sat in the little capsule on the trench floor, ate a bar of chocolate, and lived to tell the tale!
The Mariana Trench
The deepest part of the deepest ocean in the world is the Mariana Trench. Stretching for 2,500 km and 70 km wide, the trench is a place where no sunlight reaches. But that is not to say no creatures live there. The creatures of the trench usually carry their own light – they are bioluminescent, like a firefly is, for example

Dear Mr. Cameron,

My sincerest congratulations go out from the Island of Saipan on your fearless accomplishment, and though I was a little jealous fishing off a lonely dock yesterday that I couldn’t see the bottom of the Trench too, many thanks for the wonderful pictures and I’ll look forward to your upcoming productions; perhaps someday others can match your achievement.

You know there isn’t much difference in words; shame for instance is reserved for those afraid to fail, and greatness for those who succeed because they dared death.

Again, great job,

Dane Hodges
Saipan, Northern Marianas Islands

The Last Japanese Command Post, Saipan, CNMI

More Breaking News

AP Saipan - China to finish 2nd in "race to the bottom" of Marianas Trench

AP Saipan - It looks like Dane Hodges, Sir Richard Branson, and Bruce Jones Triton will be racing for 3rd (actually 4th counting Piccard and Walsh)when China sends the Sea Dragon, Jialong, to the bottom of the Marianas Trench!

NOT to be outdone by teams from western countries China yesterday announced it too will plunge down the Marianas Trench. China’s submersible Jialong (mythical sea dragon) will attempt next month to descend 4.35 miles.

China’s “Dragon” deep-sea submersible will plunge 6 miles down the Marianas Trench in June. The Maritime News photo

China’s “Dragon” deep-sea submersible will plunge 6 miles down the Marianas Trench in June. The Maritime News photo

It will match James Cameron’s deep sea challenger dive.

For the Chinese nation the dragon dive is more than a scientific feat, it is an economic must.

The United Nations’ convention on the law of the sea allocated China several ocean zones for resource management.

China believes the deep-sea areas contain valuable ore and other resources not found on land but are buried at an unbelievable depth between  3 and 6.5 miles.

State director of oceanic administration, Liu Cigui, was frank with the media when identifying China’s national interest.

“The ability to develop oceanic-resource management is directly linked to the country’s competitiveness in a marine economy era.”

China’s ocean-going research vessel that carries the dragon hosts nearly 100 scientists and is currently en route to the Marianas Trench for the projected 10-hour dive to the bottom.

Although China claims the exploration mission is “open” to foreign scientists no confirmation of non-Chinese nationals among the mission has been confirmed.

Dane has formally invited the Chinese team to refuel and station in Saipan, CNMI, but there is no confirmation to that as of press time.

Exploring the Kymer ruins, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Dane at Mao's tomb, Tianamen Square, Beijing, China

The tomb raider in Cambodia

Dane swims near the Marianas Trench


Dane Hodges Saipan CNMI Guam James Cameron dives Marianas Trench National Marine Monument Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands Challenger Deep 7 Wonders of the World Sir Branson Don Walsh Jacques Piccard Rota Tinian Ocean Sea Magellan Submarine submersible Triest 7 Wonders of the World scuba diving Facebook Google yahoo explorer travels traveler creatures volcanoes

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