James Cameron dived into the Challenger Deep. What is it?

1 Apr

Ever since I was a little girl I’ve had this fantasy about the ocean.

It involves draining all the water away – naturally while freezing time so the animals don’t die – and then wandering around to see what’s really down there.

I suspect the result would be equally terrifying and fascinating. I mean we already know about Jaws, Godzilla, Orca and the creature from Cloverfield, but I bet there’s a beast or two that would make them look like fluffy kittens.

Yet I imagine there would also be pretty some pretty cool stuff. And in the same way people say our jungles are full of scientific and medical breakthroughs we’ve yet to discover, I bet the same goes for the deepest part of our planet.

Someone who shares my fascination is uber-director James Cameron, who this week became the first solo person to reach the 11km Challenger Deep, an undersea valley in the Mariana Trench that is Earth’s deepest realm.

It was only the second manned dive into the Deep, the first being in 1960 when Lt Don Walsh and late Swiss engineer Jacques Piccard made their journey in the bathyscaphe Trieste. Cameron completed his journey, which took just over two hours, in a one-man vessel that collected videos, photos and samples.

You can read more about his trip – and watch a video – at National Geographic, which is a partner in the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE project. But I was inspired to learn more about his destination. So I set myself a challenge to learn a few facts about the trench. Here they are…

* The trench was created by ocean-to-ocean subduction, which basically means the Pacific Plate was forced underneath the Mariana plate.
* Measuring 11,033m deep, it lies in the Pacific Ocean.
* The trench stretches 2542km long and 69km wide.
* The pressure at its deepest part is more than 8 tonnes per square inch.
* Mt Everest – the highest point on Earth – would fit into the trench and still have almost 2200m of water above it.
* The deepest point, called Challenger Deep, is named after the British Royal Navy ship HMS Challenger II, whose crew made the first recordings of its depth in an expedition from 1872-1876.
* Four descents have been made to the bottom. As well as the two that were manned, the Kaiko reached the bottom in 1996 and Nereus in 2009.

 

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