Vescovo Sets World Record to Deepest Place on Earth
On April 28 Victor Vescovo piloted the Limiting Factor down to a depth of 35853ft (10928m) at the famously deepest place in the world, the Challenger Deep, in the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench, setting a new world record. Vescovo's dive was a total of 12 hours including 4 hours on the bottom, another record for time spent at the location.
This makes Vescovo the first human to achieve reaching both the highest point on Earth (Mt. Everest) and the lowest undersea point on Earth.
“It is almost indescribable how excited all of us are about achieving what we just did,” said Vescovo, emphasizing the achievement was a team effort.
The record depth beats the only two other attempts at reaching the deepest point, that of Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard in 1960 (35827ft, 10920m) and that of Titanic and Avatar movie producer, James Cameron in 2012 (35787ft, 10908m). Walsh, who is now 87, was on board the research vessel during Vescovo's dive and was there to congratulate him.
In order to make it a record-breaking dive, the research team was able to hone in precisely on where the deepest point was in the region, using the vessel's state-of-the-art sonar.
The mission was not without danger, and if there were deficiencies in the submersible's titanium shell and sealing, it could implode, crushing Vescovo and everything inside. The pressure at the bottom is 987 times atmospheric pressure. But the 'Limiting Factor' submersible has a 3.5-inch titanium hull with engineering under the guidance of Triton sub builder Patrick Lahey.
The Limiting Factor made a total of 4 dives to the Challenger Deep in 8 days (with a fifth dive made in a nearby trench of comparable depth called the Sirena Deep). Reusability of a deep-sea submersible is also a historic first, and the number of dives more than doubles all of the dives ever made to the bottom of the trench.
And yes there were strange sea life encounters. They believe they discovered four new species of shrimp-like crustaceans called amphipods. They saw cusk eels with transparent heads, a pink snailfish, a sleek grenadier fish that has an eel-like tail, something called a spoon worm, and, in the Sirena Trench, rocks coated in red, yellow and orange which were thought to be bacterial mats.
Despite the mechanical arm being in disrepair due to a previous dive, rocks were quite fortuitously and accidentally carried to the surface in the recesses of the submersible structure. The retrieved rocks will prove invaluable to the study of such an alien and unfamiliar geologic region.
On a more sobering note, plastic garbage and a candy wrapper were found at the deepest point. Even one of the most inaccessible locations on Earth is plagued with our apparently ubiquitous and unshakable environmental problem of plastic pollution.
After the successful dives, on May 9 the expedition headed to the nearby island of Guam.
Its next destination will be the Tonga Trench in the South Pacific. The Tonga Trench is widely believed to be the second deepest location on Earth, but only by a few feet. Vescovo and his team were compelled to explore the trench as well as verify that it does not contradict previous data and turn out to be the deepest!
Soon after, the team will be on their way far north to the Arctic Ocean's deepest point, the Molloy Deep.