Well, he’d be the third.

Filmmaker James Cameron is preparing to descend to the deepest place on Earth, to the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

The Oscar winner and director of such Science Fiction masterpieces as The Terminator, Aliens, and The Abyss, is part of one of four oceanic teams vying to be the first to descend to the bottom of the deepest part of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean. The “Challenger Deep” section, as it’s called, is deeper than Mount Everest is tall, and has only been explored twice before, the last being in Bathyscaphe Trieste in 1960.

Trieste Bathyscaphe, which made the plunge in 1960

The pressure within the trench is so great that a submersible would need to withstand 16,000 psi which, in layman’s terms, is compared to 8,000 elephants standing atop a Mini Cooper.

Also competing to be the first down is a the ‘Virgin Atlantic Team’, headed by multi-billionaire Sir Richard Branson. Cameron’s team is in the lead of a race that has been dubbed the “race to inner-space”.

The 57-year-old Cameron is preparing to make the solo descent into the 36,ooo foot deep trench in a small, one man sub. If there were any loss of pressure, from even a hole the size of a pin, it would prove fatal for the director.  Cameron told Popular Mechanics last year that “there have been white-knuckle moments, complete power failures where we’ve had to use emergency ballast systems to get back… Yeah, your life is at risk any time you go into a hostile environment like that – but you trust the engineering.”

Though it outwardly looks to be a race between Cameron and Branson’s teams, and the other two teams (DOER and Triton Sub), it seems really to be a competitiveness conjured up by the media. The four teams have helped each other out, sharing resources and technology along the way.

James Cameron's Submersible, Courtesy of National Geographic.com

It does seem fitting for the director of such ground-breaking science fiction and action films, to be the first in this modern race to explore one of the last uncharted areas of our planet.

At least someone still has motivation to go to infinity and beyond…

Follow James Cameron’s progress in the coming week’s at National Geographic’s Deepsea Challenge Website.