WOODS HOLE — Urging a group of Chatham middle schoolers to follow their dreams, filmmaker James Cameron handed the keys to the Deepsea Challenger, the only human-occupied vehicle able to reach the deepest parts of the sea, to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in a ceremony Friday morning. “The things you get excited about today, those will be some of the most important driving forces for you in the future,” Mr. Cameron told the gathering of 12 and 13 year olds who formed a semicircle in front of him. The sub had been in Washington, D.C., the night before for a National Geographic 125th anniversary gala event, and prior to that had been displayed throughout the country.

The sub will now find a permanent home in Woods Hole, where a cluster of preeminent advanced marine science study institutions, including WHOI, are located.

WHOI president and director Dr. Susan Avery, along with the scientific research community, a small gathering of regional press and school children, gave Mr. Cameron a warm greeting on the cool June day. With the Steamship Authority ferries crisscrossing in the background and the deep sea submarine that took seven years to build perched behind him, Mr. Cameron spoke about the role the ocean plays in our weather, in climate change and in our future. And he praised WHOI.

“WHOI is a world leader in deep submergence, both piloted and robotic,” he said. “I’ve been informally associated with WHOI for more than 20 years, and I welcome this opportunity to formalize the relationship with the transfer of the Deepsea Challenger . . . WHOI is a place where the Deepsea Challenger system will be a living, breathing and dynamic program going forward.”

The only person to travel solo to the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean. — Mark Lovewell

Mr. Cameron, whose films include Avatar and Titantic, is also a deep sea explorer. On March 26, 2012, he reached the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean, in the Deepsea Challenger submersible. On his solo dive to 35,787 feet, almost 11,000 meters, he captured high-resolution 3D images and collected samples that have already resulted in identification of at least 68 new species, plus evidence of the deepest bacterial mats ever discovered, WHOI said in a release.

The Deepsea Challenger will be used by the institution for an array of advanced research, Ms. Avery said.