On 28 April businessman and retired naval officer Victor Vescovo piloted the Limiting Factor deep-sea vehicle to the deepest known point in the ocean: the Mariana Trench’s Challenger Deep. Reaching a depth of 10,928m, the dive bested the previous world record set by US Lieutenant Don Walsh and Swiss scientist Jacques Piccard in 1960 by 16m.
The dive was part of the Five Deeps Expedition, a privately funded venture led by Vescovo that aims to dive to the deepest point in each of Earth’s five oceans. The team has already completed dives to the Puerto Rico Trench in the Atlantic, the Java Trench in the Indian and the South Sandwich Trench in the Southern. They plan to head to the Molloy Deep in the Arctic for their fifth and final dive.
The Limiting Factor deep-sea vehicle was designed by Florida-based company Triton Submarines. Its 65kWh battery gives it enough power to dive for more than 16 hours. It can carry two people and has a hull that is 90mm thick and made of titanium alloy.
The team completed five dives to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, four dives to Challenger Deep and one dive to Sirena Deep, just over 200km to the northeast.
As well as being the first man to make multiple solo dives to the bottom of the Mariana trench, pilot Victor Vescovo is also the first man to have both climbed Mount Everest and skied to the North and South Poles.
Three new species of prawn-like amphipods are thought to have been discovered by the Five Deeps team over the course of their expedition.
Expedition leader Rob McCallum, who has previously led expeditions to the RMS Titanic, holds his ‘full ocean depth styrofoam cup’. Researchers exploring the ocean bottom often attach polystyrene cups to their vehicles.
At depths of hundreds of metres the increased water pressure crushes them to a fraction of their former size leaving the researchers with a novel souvenir.
- This article was first published in BBC Science Focus in July 2019 – subscribe here