Exploring the Mysteries of the Ocean Depths: The Mariana Trench
Just as the Earth’s surface has enormous peaks and valleys, the ocean world features equally diverse topography. What are the ocean depths like, and why is it dangerous to explore? Perhaps the most intriguing of these features is the trench. The Marianas, a chasm in the western Pacific Ocean spanning more than 2,540 kilometers and home to the Challenger Deep, the deepest known point on Earth’s surface that is more than 11,000 meters underwater. That’s almost three times deeper than the place where the remains of the RMS Titanic lie in the Atlantic Ocean. It is also deeper than the height of Mount Everest. Wreckage scattered across the ocean floor could give clues to the final moments of the submarine heading for the Titanic.
Fascinating Facts about the Challenger Deep
1. James Cameron’s Exploration: James Cameron, director of “Titanic,” is one of the few people who have visited the place. Few human expeditions have ventured into the depths of Challenger Deep. The first one was done in 1960 with the historic immersion of the Trieste bathyscaphe, a type of free-immersion submersible. During the expedition, passengers Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh were stunned to see living creatures where scientists imagined it was impossible for anything to survive.
2. A Plastic Bag in the Marianas Trench: Another explorer who returned to the site was Victor Vescovo, an investor from Texas who plunged 10,927 meters (35,853 feet) and achieved a world record in 2019. Vescovo described a depressing view of the impact of mankind in these remote, seemingly untouched places when he identified a plastic bag and candy wrappers at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Since then, a handful of explorers have ventured into the Challenger Deep, but expeditions are rare, and the journey is extremely dangerous.
3. The Pressure and Layers: For every 10 meters (33 feet) traveled below the ocean’s surface, the pressure on an object increases by one atmosphere. A trip to the Challenger Deep can put a vessel under pressure “equivalent to 50 jumbo jets,” according to Dr. Gene Feldman, a NASA emeritus oceanographer. The hadal zone, where the Challenger Deep lies, is one of the least explored habitats on the planet.
4. A Home to Unique Aquatic Life: The Challenger Deep is home to unique aquatic life and mud volcanoes. Discoveries in the Challenger Deep include colorful rock outcroppings and sea cucumbers that live on the seafloor. The Mariana Trench also hosts hydrothermal vents and mud volcanoes that support unusual life forms. Despite the harsh conditions, exotic species and microscopic organisms are able to survive in this vital environment.
5. A Protected National Monument: The Mariana Trench was designated a US national monument in 2009 to protect the diverse and alien organisms that thrive in its depths. The entire national monument covers an area of about 95,000 square miles.
6. The Mysterious Ocean Floor: The ocean floor remains one of the most mysterious places in the universe. Only 20% of the seabed has been mapped, according to NOAA figures. Efforts are being made to provide increasingly detailed images of the Mariana Trench, but due to its vastness and depth, scientists rely on sonar technology to explore its features.
In conclusion, the Mariana Trench and the Challenger Deep hold many secrets and continue to captivate scientists and explorers alike. Through brave expeditions and advancements in technology, we are slowly unraveling the mysteries of the ocean depths.