In pictures: Marathon dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench finds new species of isopod

In a 12-hour round trip, the Limiting Factor travelled 11km below sea level and discovered a previously unknown species of crustacean.

On Friday 5 March, Hamish Harding and Victor Vescovo were sealed into Limiting Factor, a two-person submersible, to begin their descent to Challenger Deep – the deepest section of the Mariana Trench, located close to 11km below the surface of the Pacific Ocean.

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The pair spent almost 12 hours making the round trip to the bottom and back.

The Deep Submergence Vehicle Limiting Factor © Action Aviation
© Action Aviation

The Deep Submergence Vehicle (DSV) Limiting Factor begins its dive. Encased within its outer body is a near-spherical pressure hull made of 90mm thick titanium, needed to withstand the crushing pressure over a thousand times greater than at sea level. It’s one of the few crewed vehicles capable of repeated dives to full ocean depth (11km).

Hamish Harding (left) and Victor Vescovo © Action Aviation
© Action Aviation

Hamish Harding (left) takes a selfie sitting beside Limiting Factor’s pilot Victor Vescovo, as the pair descend into Challenger Deep.

Robotic support vehicle collecting isopods © Action Aviation
© Action Aviation

The arm of the CLOSP lander (one of Limiting Factor’s three robotic support vehicles) collects unidentified isopods at a depth of 10,925m.

A selection of the isopods collected by the mission © Action Aviation
© Action Aviation

The isopods were brought back to the surface and analysed aboard Limiting Factor’s mothership Deep Submersible Support Vessel (DSSV) Pressure Drop. Early indications suggest they’re a previously unknown species of the crustacean.

The seabed at Challenger Deep © Action Aviation
© Action Aviation

During their 12-hour dive, Harding and Vescovo spent four-and-a-quarter hours at the bottom of Challenger Deep, covering a distance of 4km along the undulating and silt-covered sea bed.

Hamish Harding climbing out of the DSV © Action Aviation
© Action Aviation

Hamish Harding emerges from DSV Limiting Factor after its safe return to the surface.

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