A Voyage into the Deep: Inside the Plans to Dive the Mariana Trench

By Veronique Greenwood | March 2, 2012 3:19 pm

virgin

Even in the age of satellite imagery, commercial flight, modern medicine, and plenty of other perks unavailable to the explorers of earlier ages, there are still some crannies on Earth left unexplored. But that’s because exploring them is an extreme endeavor. The race to get to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean, the deepest place on Earth, now includes billionaires Richard Branson and James Cameron, each working on specialized submersibles. Eliza Strickland of IEEE Spectrum traveled to the epicenter of the activity near the Mariana Islands and reports back in a fascinating feature.

It’s a great Friday afternoon adventure story, so we’ll get you started with this excerpt:

As the battered little boat slides down a 3-meter ocean swell into the next trough, Chris Welsh grits his teeth and peers out into the storm. Sheets of rain pummel the dark windows of the bridge, and a Micronesian sailor wrestles with the wheel. It’s past midnight on a July night and we’re bobbing over the almost 11 kilometers of water that fill the deepest abyss on Earth, the Mariana Trench. Welsh is leading a small party of engineers, scientists, and adventurers under the banner of Virgin Oceanic; they’ve chugged out here aboard a 20-year-old ferryboat to test some unmanned deep-diving probes. It’s the first step in what they hope will be a glorious high-tech adventure, in which a man—Welsh, specifically—will visit the bottom of the trench before the end of this year.

[Read more at IEEE Spectrum]

Image courtesy of Virgin Oceanic

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment
  • Barbara. Daniel

    What do they hope to find?? Honestly ???

  • REKHA

    WELL……..EXCELLENT IDEA…..! Mr.BRANDSON&Mr.CAMERON…….ALL THE VERY BEST.GREAT EFFORT I ADMIRE U SIR…..THE WORLD CAN SEE ANOTHER MAGIC IN MARIANA TRENCH….

  • Geack

    @ Barbara,
    They have very little idea what they might find. That’s kind of the point. We really don’t know much about the deepest depths, and it seems like every time we go deeper we learn something amazing – bioluminescence, thermal-vent ecologies, sulfur-based metabolisms… Plus, for a guy like Branson, there’s the pure coolest-ever bragging rights.

  • Chris the Canadian

    It’s not about what the hope or think they’ll find, it’s about what they will find that they could have never imagined!!! It’s like old fashioned TRUE exploration!!! It’s the romance of it, the sheer simplicity of why they want to do it. Why go down the Marianes Trench? Because it’s there and no one else has accomplished it!!!

    In a world where the sheer awe inspiring spectacles of nature are slowly becoming less of a mystery and more of an equation, this expedition harkens back to the days where REAL explorers would cast their sails into the unknown and throw caution to the wind in the hopes of finding a lost treasure, a new land, unseen riches, or a yet undiscovered people. Richard Branson, if anything, is a genuine explorer and I for one applaud him and the Cameron teams for trying to navigate one of the last unknown and uncharted areas of our planet.

  • William Murderface

    Dethklok already went to the Mariana Trench to record an album.

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