All of us are aware of people who have made it to the highest mountain peak on Earth, but do you know the great men who descended into the deepest point ever known? In January 1960, engineer and oceanographer Jacques Piccard, and Navy Lt. Don Walsh descended into the Challenger Deep – the deepest point of the Pacific’s Mariana trench named after the exploratory vessel HMS Challenger II. These two courageous men undertook the most dangerous dive in the history – a dive to the most dangerous, remote and deepest known place on Earth. The first time it was repeated more then 50 years later, in March 2012, by explorer and director ‘James Cameron’. He again dove to the Challenger Deep, a hostile environment with untold possibilities. This voyage into the bottom of the earth captured the world’s attention as he made the first and deepest ever solo dive into the innermost point of the Pacific.
The Mariana Trench is one of the most inhospitable, remote places on earth. It is a crescent shaped scar in the Earth’s crust that is more than 1550 miles long and 43 miles wide. The distance between the ocean’s surface and Challenger Deep is almost 7 miles. In fact, even if Mount Everest was put into the deepest part of the ocean, its peak would be more than 2000 meters underwater!
The Mariana Trench is shrouded in constant darkness and the temperature is just a few degrees above freezing. The water pressure at the foundation of the trench is a whopping eight tons per square inch. Crabs, Angler Fish and other thousands of species of invertebrates are some species in the deepest part of the ocean (abyssal zone). Human life is impossible at the Mariana trench.
It was in 1953 that Swiss scientist Auguste Piccard designed a bathyscaphe called the Trieste, a groundbreaking vehicle that could withstand the overwhelming pressures of the deepest trench in the ocean. The US Navy had then bought the Trieste in 1958 and it was evaluated by the team of ocean researchers. They knew that the Trieste could go to any depth in the ocean. The submersible was dominated by a 50 foot long hole filled with lighter than water, aviation gasoline and LED weights to control resilience. The spherical cabin that slung underneath it was of 6 feet with 5 inch thick steel walls. It was of the size of any household refrigerator and had same temperature. After 7 years of modifications and tests, the Trieste was ready to travel 7 miles under the bottom of the trench. Before making the historic dive in 1960, Don Walsh and his team had conducted a series of increasingly deep test dives to test the bathyscaphe and figure out its breaks and fix them. During their 5 hour descent to Challenger Deep everything went fine until the crew heard a loud crack at a depth of 30,000 feet. They decided to continue but when they reached the bottom they found out the viewing windows were cracked. Due to concerns about their own safety Piccard and Walsh decided to ascend to the surface after only 20 minutes. It is impossible to imagine life at such pressures but Piccard and Walsh did see deep ocean life in the form of a flatfish like creature during their short stay.
More than 11 kms beneath the sea where there is no air and no light, it is these two people who had first gone 7 miles down to the deepest end of the deepest ocean. The journey to the deepest trench in ocean is a magnificent one and will be remembered for ages.