The Mariana Trench

The Mariana Trench was first pinpointed and surveyed in 1951 by the  British Survey ship Challenger II., which gave its name for the trench's deepest point, "The Challenger Deep".

The challenger deep is located near the southwestern extremity of the Mariana Trench and was first explored in 1960 by Swiss scientist Jacques Piccard & US Navy Lt. Donald Walsh in bathyscaph "Trieste", a US Navy owned submersible manned vessel (Designed by Jacques Piccard's father Auguste) which set a record by diving to a depth of 10, 900 meters (35,810 feet).

The scientist had the brilliant idea to use 70 tons of gasoline to fill the 50 foot long sub's floats, knowing that gasoline was lighter than water, which in turn was used to flood the submersible's air tanks, enabling its descent.   As the depth increased, the gasoline compressed, which reduced the sub's buoyancy and accelerated its progress until about 5 hours later, the Trieste had reached the ocean floor, withstanding over 16,000 pounds of pressure per square inch.

The Challenger expedition gave us our first glimpse of deep ocean basins and other characteristics of the ocean floor.  In addition to exploring the Mariana Trench, the Challenger gathered important data on the features and species of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian oceans, covering nearly 130,000 kilometers, (approx. 71,000 nautical miles).  Nearly 5000 new species of sea creatures were discovered during the 4 year expedition.

In March of 1995, the Japanese unmanned submarine Kaiko was used to conduct further research deep within the Mariana Trench.  The Kaiko is a sophisticated vessel with a highly accurate positioning system, allowing scientists to gather important data without the need to endanger a human diver.

Related Links

NC Museum of Natural Sciences Staff explore the deep ocean with NOAA

Deep Sea Exploration: Submarine Volcanoes and Hydrothermal Vents

 

Continued »

Fact Finder


The Mariana Trench was first pinpointed and surveyed in 1951 by the  British Survey ship Challenger II., which gave its name for the trench's deepest point, "The Challenger Deep".

 

The Exploration of the challenger Deep by Swiss scientist Jacques Piccard and US Navy Lt. Donald Walsh set the record for deep-diving  for having reached 10, 900 meters (35,810 feet).


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