Posts Tagged 'marianas trench'

Thoughtful Thursday: The Next Frontier

You would think that by time we had the technology to send people to the moon, we’d be experts on our own planet; but the truth is, more than 95 percent of our underwater world remains unexplored, leaving us nearly clueless as to what lies far below the water’s surface.

In space travel’s short history, we’ve sent 536 humans into the cosmos. Yet only three explorers have braved the depths of the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the world’s oceans. Its lowest point rests 36,070 feet (nearly 7 miles) below the water’s surface. To give you some context: If you dropped Mount Everest into the Mariana Trench, its peak would still be more than a mile underwater.

Exploration Above and Below

U.S. Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard made the first descent to the bottom of the trench, called the Challenger Deep, in 1960. Two descents were later made by unmanned vehicles, and most recently in 2012, an expedition was made by James Cameron—yes, that James Cameron, as in the filmmaker behind movies like “Titanic” and “Avatar.”

With only four descents made to this day to that part of the ocean, it’s no surprise the ocean remains a mystery to us. We do know that some basic life forms somehow exist down there, despite the freezing temperatures and intense pressure (8 tons per square inch, the equivalent of being crushed by 50 jumbo jets). Mud samples and observations by the explorers have discovered more than 200 different microorganisms, plus everything from giant crustaceans and sea cucumbers to enormous amoebas (4-inch, single-celled organisms) and jellyfish.

Some truly bizarre-looking creatures are also able to thrive in the midnight zone, the deepest, darkest ocean light zone (in which the Mariana Trench resides). Among them is the anglerfish, a bony fish that appears to have a built-in fishing rod attached to its head that pulses with glowing bacteria. This serves as a lure to attract prey and mates.

Joining this curious creature in the midnight zone is the vampire squid, which also uses bioluminescence to survive in this dark abyss. When threatened, it flails around frantically and ejects bioluminescent mucus containing orbs of blue light to confuse its predators. Check out our infographic on bioluminescence to learn more about this fascinating phenomenon.

The possibilities of what else exists at these depths are endless, but until we dedicate more resources to exploring our deep seas, we’ll never know the secrets hidden within our own planet.

The DeepSea Challenger is Coming to Washington, DC!

Explorer & Academy-Award winner, James Cameron, will be bringing DEEPSEA CHALLENGER, the  world’s only piloted submersible capable of diving to full-ocean depth, to Washington, DC on June 11, 2013!

deepsea challenger

The DEEPSEA CHALLENGER. Photo credit: Mark Thiessen/National Geographic

Cameron piloted the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER to a depth of 35,787 feet in the Challenger Deep, an area located within the US Marianas Trench Marine National Monument, last year. He became the first person in history to reach the Challenger Deep as a sole pilot!

This historic dive was part of the broader DEEPSEA CHALLENGE Expedition, the first manned scientific expedition to explore the Mariana and New Britain Trenches, and marked the first time in 52 years a human reached the world’s deepest known point.

Not only was Cameron’s expedition historically important, the trip was also sparked a renewed interest in deep sea exploration and research. The Expedition’s scientific findings included the discovery of at least 68 new species!

DEEPSEA CHALLENGER Visits Washington, DC 

When: 
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
12:30 pm

Where:
Woodrow Wilson Plaza, Washington DC (located on Pennsylvania Ave. between the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center and the Federal Triangle Metro Station, right across the street from National Aquarium, Washington, DC)

What: 
Guests will enjoy a fun, ocean-related presentation by James Cameron himself, Susan Avery, President and Director of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Avatar Alliance Foundation outreach team, and National Aquarium CEO, John Racanelli. Education activities will also be on-site. 

By bringing the submersible to our nation’s capital, the Avatar Alliance Foundation hopes to engage local students and reinforce the critical importance of STEM education for future advances in the fields of engineering, robotics, ocean science and research.

The DEEPSEA CHALLENGER’s stop in Washington, DC will be its fifth stop in a nation-wide trek from Los Angeles to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, where the submersible’s engineering advancements will be incorporated into further research.

The truck carrying the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER cross-country!

The truck carrying the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER cross-country!

Cameron is a member of the Advisory Board for WHOI’s new Center for Marine Robotics.

We hope you can join us for this historic event! 


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