August 4, 2020 7 min read
More than 4,000 eager climbers have made their way to the top of Mount Everest, the highest spot on the planet, but do you know how many people have made it to The Challenger Deep, the deepest spot on the planet? Where is it located? And how deep is it anyway? Well, let’s find out some interesting things about the oceans and the Challenger Deep…
Around 1872, the HMS Challenger, a British Navy ship began to sail with a mission to find out many things about the ocean, including its depth. The simplest way to measure the depth of a body of water is to take a weight, tie a long rope to it and lower it into the water. When the weight hits the bottom, you measure the length of the wet rope, and you get the depth of the body of water. Thanks to the work done by the HMS Challenger, and other expeditions since then, we now know that on an average the ocean is about 3688 metres of 3.6 kilometres in depth. However, there are several deep trenches and long narrow chasms on the ocean bed, that go much deeper.
The Marianas (or Mariana) Trench is a crescent-shaped trench located east of the Philippines, and about 200 kilometres off the Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean. This underwater depression is almost 2,550 kilometres in length and has an average width of about 69 kilometres. The bottom of the Marianas Trench is home to the Challenger Deep, which is known as the deepest spot on Earth. Located off the US territory of Guam in the Pacific Ocean, the Challenger Deep has a depth of 10,902 to 10,929 metres, or almost 11 kilometres. To give you an idea of how deep it is, consider this : If you could place Mount Everest, the highest spot on the planet from the mean sea level, at the bottom of the Challenger Deep, its peak would still be more than 2 kilometres away from the surface of the ocean!
The Marianas Trench was formed more than 150 million years ago when the Philippine tectonic plate and the Pacific plate collided with each other. At the point of impact, the thinner Pacific plate descended into the Earth’s mantle, underneath the heavier land plate creating a near-vertical drop into the depths of the seabed, in a process known as ‘subduction’. Moreover, the landmass near the region is disconnected from the rest of the Pacific plate due to several underwater fault lines. As a result, the Pacific plate bends more steeply into the Philippine plate in this spot, as compared to other subduction zones, making the waters in this spot deeper than other locations in the ocean bed. Another factor that contributes to the extreme depth of the ocean near the Challenger Deep is that the Marianas Trench is located at a considerable distance from any significant landmass. Due to this, it does not collect any sedimentary deposits from rivers that open up into the oceans, which usually reduces the depth of the seabed.
Till date, there have been very few humans who have dived down into the Marianas Trench, to explore the Challenger Deep. In 1960, Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh became the first two humans to descend into the depths of the Marianas Trench to reach the Challenger Deep, inside the bathyscaphe called the Trieste. After Piccard and Walsh’s historic dive, the next person to make the journey to the bottom of the Challenger Deep was James Cameron, the Canadian film director. In 2012, Cameron, who has made several big-budget movies including Titanic and Avatar, piloted the deep-submergence vehicle the Deepsea Challenger (which he also helped to design) to a depth of 10,898 metres. With this he established a new world record for the first person to do a solo descent at such an extreme depth.
Most recently, in 2019, Victor Vescovo, an American businessman and explorer became only the fourth person in the world to descend into the Challenger Deep. He also claimed to have descended to a depth of 10,927 metres, which is almost 30 metres deeper than Cameron. Although this claim has not yet been adequately substantiated, Vescovo has definitely created history. In 2010, Vescovo had climbed to the peak of Mount Everest, many years before attempting to dive into the Marianas Trench. After his successful dive into the Challenger Deep, Vescovo has been recognised by the Guinness World Records as the only person who has climbed Mount Everest as well as dived to the bottom of the Challenger Deep. This makes Vescovo the only person on the planet to have practically reached the highest and the deepest spots on the planet. That’s an achievement like none other!
We hope you enjoyed learning about the Challenger Deep and the Marianas Trench. Keep visiting www.practically.com for more interesting information about the planet and new inventions and discoveries.
Till the next time, keep exploring!
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