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Cameron joins up aboard the Russian research vessel Akademik Mstislav Keldysh with a group of NASA scientists, as well as some American marine biologists, to investigate ten hydrothermal vents in both the Atlantic and Pacific. The vents have their own unique ecosystem, which support diverse organisms such as giant tube worms, swarms of blind white crabs, and vast amounts of shrimp which are capable of "seeing" water that is heated by the vents. These creatures do not require sunlight like other organisms, and instead obtain their energy from the vents. They are able to survive in the superheated and sulfurous water. Because of this, the documentary suggests that this is what life beyond Earth might look like. As some alien ecosystems are likely to be a lot harsher than a typical terrestrial ecosystem, these exotic vents provide an insight into some of the forms that alien life might take.
The documentary shows Cameron's passion for exploring the oceans, as well as his interest in extraterrestrial life. It also showcases the technology employed to reach such depths.
The film is similar to Cameron's earlier documentary, Ghosts of the Abyss (2003), which involves him journeying to the wreck of the RMS Titanic. It too was filmed in the 3-D IMAX format.
- Anatoly M. Sagalevitch as Himself - MIR Chief Pilot and Keldysh Expedition Leader (as Dr. Anatoly M. Sagalevitch)
- Genya Chernaiev as Himself - MIR Pilot
- Victor Nischeta as Himself - MIR Pilot
- Pamela Conrad as Herself - Astrobiologist: JPL
- Arthur 'Lonne' Lane as Himself - Astronomer and Planetary Scientist (as Dr. Arthur 'Lonne' Lane)
- Jim Childress as Himself - Marine Animal Physiologist: UC Santa Barbara (as Dr. Jim Childress)
- Dijanna Figueroa as Herself - Marine Animal Physiologist: UC Santa Barbara
- Michael Henry as Himself - Marine Animal Physiologist: UC Santa Barbara
- Kevin Hand as Himself - Planetary Scientist: Stanford University and SETI Institute
- Maya Tolstoy as Herself - Marine Seismologist: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University
- Loretta Hidalgo as Herself - President: Space Generation Foundation
- Kelly Snook as Herself - Planetary Scientist: NASA
- Megan McArthur as Herself - NOAMA Astronaut: NASA (as Dr. Megan McArthur)
- Tori Hoehler as Herself, Astrobiologist, AMES (as Dr. Tori Hoehler)
- Charles Pellegrino as Himself - Science Observer
- Directed by James Cameron, Steven Quale
- Produced by James Cameron, Andrew Wight
- Music by Jeehun Hwang
- Cinematography by James Cameron, Vince Pace, Ron Allum
- Editing by Matthew Kregor, Fiona Wight
- Studio Walt Disney Pictures, Walden Media, Earthship Productions
- Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures
- Release date January 28, 2005
- Running time 47 min
- Language English
- Box office $8,968,684