Fact Check

Was James Cameron Exploring the Titanic Wreckage on 9/11?

It's not often that two major disasters cross paths in the world of rumors.

Published Jun 22, 2023

Director James Cameron (left) and the late actor Bill Paxton onboard a research vessel for the 2003 documentary, "Ghosts of the Abyss." (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images) (Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)
Director James Cameron (left) and the late actor Bill Paxton onboard a research vessel for the 2003 documentary, "Ghosts of the Abyss." (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)
Oscar-winning film director James Cameron was exploring the wreckage of Titanic on Sept. 11, 2001.

In June 2023, an old video was reshared on social media that indicated James Cameron, the Oscar-winning film director of 1997's "Titanic," had been exploring the wreckage of Titanic near the seabed of the Atlantic Ocean on the day of the U.S. terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

This was true.

While we've reported plenty of rumors for each of these two major disasters, it seemed rare for them to cross paths like this.

The RMS Titanic struck an iceberg on April 14, 1912, and sank in the early morning hours on the following day. Around 1,500 people died. As for Sept. 11, nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks that took place in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania.

The reason why the video was being reshared in June 2023 was due to renewed interest in the Titanic disaster. At the time, a submersible meant for exploring the famed ship's wreckage had gone missing. Days after contact had been lost with the sub, the U.S. Coast Guard said it had determined the sub had imploded, killing all five people onboard.

As for the viral video, it came from "Ghosts of the Abyss," a 2003 3D documentary directed by Cameron that provides viewers with never-before-seen glimpses of the remains of Titanic.

While Cameron normally stays behind the camera with his projects, he appeared onscreen in the documentary with the late actor Bill Paxton. Paxton previously appeared more than five years earlier in "Titanic."

Near the end of "Ghosts of the Abyss," Paxton announces the news of the terrorist attacks just as Cameron is climbing out of a sub. It's unclear if Paxton had also just returned to the surface minutes or hours earlier in a separate sub. Earlier in the documentary, Paxton and Cameron were shown going down to the wreckage of the Titanic in two different subs, each of which could hold three people.

Around the time of the documentary's limited theatrical release in April 2003, The Associated Press reported about the moment in the film that showed Cameron learning of the attacks:

While Cameron's next fiction film is a ways off, he hit on some unexpected drama in "Ghosts of the Abyss." The film includes a tense sequence in which one of the robot cameras rescues the other, hauling it out by tether after its battery died deep inside Titanic.

After the rescue, one of Cameron's team grins into the camera aboard a minisub and announces the rescue time: "6:16, Sept. 11, 2001." Cameron and the crew surfaced hours later to the news of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The reporting also said that Sept. 11 led Cameron to cancel his plans for a sequel for his 1994 movie, "True Lies":

Sept. 11 also prompted Cameron to scrap a sequel to "True Lies," his comic spy thriller with Arnold Schwarzenegger, star of the "Terminator" movies.

"We were struggling with it, trying to figure out a story," Cameron said. "Then when Sept. 11 happened, I just thought an action comedy about an anti-terrorism unit trying to stop Arab terrorists from smuggling nuclear weapons onto U.S. soil was just not that funny anymore."

For further reading, several Titanic rumors that we've covered in the past include talk of how the sinking of the ship was an inside job, that the door from the film that actor Kate Winslet's character Rose floated on is displayed at Disney Springs in Orlando, and another claim about the last surviving picture ever taken of the real ship.

As for Sept. 11, we've reported on many different rumors. For example, there's a picture that purportedly shows victims' cars still parked in a commuter lot following the attacks, as well as "To Catch a Predator" investigative journalist Chris Hansen's claim of the FBI finding a hijacker's airplane ticket after one of the towers collapsed, plus many others.


Germain, David. "Cameron Cruises Back to Titanic." Marshfield News-Herald via The Associated Press, 10 Apr. 2003, p. 20.

"Ghosts of the Abyss." Disney Wiki, Fandom.com, https://disney.fandom.com/wiki/Ghosts_of_the_Abyss.

"September 11 attacks." Brittanica, https://www.britannica.com/event/September-11-attacks.

"Titanic." Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Titanic.

Whittle, Patrick, and Holly Ramer. "The Titan Submersible Imploded, Killing All 5 on Board, the US Coast Guard Says." The Associated Press, 22 June 2023, apnews.com/article/missing-titanic-submersible-updates-6255308420cb542fab287224c3e9b1c1.

Jordan Liles is a Senior Reporter who has been with Snopes since 2016.