Challenging the Deep

A major new immersive exhibition about the history-making deep-sea expeditions of deep-sea explorer and director James Cameron opens at the Australian National Maritime Museum this May, with James Cameron visiting Sydney to officially open it.

13 March 2018


Developed by the Australian National Maritime Museum, James Cameron – Challenging the Deep takes visitors to the depths of our oceans through the lens of Cameron’s underwater cameras and his other incredible technological innovations that have enabled us to see the least known places on earth.

Cameron has had a lifelong fascination with the deep oceans. He has led eight major deep-sea expeditions and many submersible dives, setting world firsts including the first solo dive to the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench, the first exploration of the interior of the wreck of RMS Titanic, and the first seafloor-to-surface live broadcast.

Cameron’s expeditions, in collaboration with oceanographic and scientific institutions, have documented the shipwrecks of RMS Titanic and the German battleship Bismarck, explored deep ocean phenomena such as black smoker hydrothermal vents and revealed new species. Cameron’s expeditions have been chronicled in his documentaries and now, for the first time, in a major exhibition James Cameron – Challenging the Deep.


Visitors enter the exhibition through a recreation of a MIR submersible, emerging into a sound and light space evoking the mystery of the ocean’s barely lit Twilight Zone. Now immersed in the deep, visitors experience moments from Cameron’s greatest underwater adventures through large cinema-scale projections alongside rare artefacts, specimens, and props from his feature films in which ocean exploration has been incorporated in both a real and fictional context.

The exhibition displays the technical innovations Cameron developed to make the pioneering underwater feature film The Abyss in 1988, including unique diving helmets, re-breathers, lights and underwater voice communication technology alongside original miniatures of terrestrial and alien vessels used in the making of the science-fiction classic.

Visitors explore inside the wreck of Titanic with models, hand props and costumes from the blockbuster film Titanic informed by Cameron’s three expeditions to the wreck. Then accompany young scientists on some of the 43 dives of Cameron’s Aliens of the Deep Expedition to discover thriving deep ocean life, spectacular volcanic vents and geology that unlocks the potential secrets of life on other planets. And from Expedition Bismarck, they watch survivors of the battleship revisit the last resting place of their comrades and their giant warship.

Visitors also voyage with Cameron to the deepest known point of the earth’s surface on his historic solo dive 11,000 metres down to the Challenger Deep of the Mariana Trench in the revolutionary DEEPSEA CHALLENGER submersible Cameron co-designed that was built in secret in Sydney. The exhibition includes artefacts from the design and development of the vessel and specimens collected by Cameron on this dive together with the Explorers Club flag Cameron took with him on the record-breaking solo trip.

“Quite apart from his film career, James Cameron’s passion for the deep oceans and scientific pursuits have placed him at the forefront of underwater exploration. He continues to challenge the deep oceans to unlock their secrets and shines a light on a place less known to us than the surface of Mars,” said museum director & CEO Kevin Sumption PSM.

“We are delighted to develop this exhibition in collaboration with James Cameron and the Avatar Alliance Foundation, to share the important contributions he has made to the world of maritime heritage and to highlight the importance of our oceans,” he said.

NSW Minister for Tourism and Major Events Adam Marshall said the exhibition will provide a significant boost to the NSW visitor economy.

“Given the worldwide appeal of Cameron’s work, we expect around 4,800 people will travel to Sydney from interstate and overseas to experience the exhibition, with a total visitor spend approximately $4.6 million,” Mr Marshall said.

James Cameron – Challenging the Deep opens to the public on 29 May 2017 and will run until 30 January 2019. Tickets are $20 adults, $12 child/concession or $50 families.

Purchase your tickets before 29 May to receive 20% off the Big Ticket which includes entry to the exhibition plus Wildlife Photographer of the Year and all the vessels.

The exhibition is supported by the NSW Government via its tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW. It has been developed by the Australian National Maritime Museum in collaboration with the Avatar Alliance Foundation, and is funded by the museum’s USA Bicentennial Gift Fund.

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