Published: Wed, May 15, 2019
Research | By Raquel Erickson

Historic deep dive into Pacific's Mariana Trench yields 'obvious human contamination'

Historic deep dive into Pacific's Mariana Trench yields 'obvious human contamination'

In a startling discovery, Texas investor and explorer Victor Vescovo has found plastic objects almost 6.8 miles (35,853 feet/10,928 metres) in the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench.

Explorer Victor Vescovo also discovered four new crustacean species in his descent 11 kilometres down into the deepest part of the ocean on the third Mariana Trench expedition since 1960. The mission is to create sonar mapping at the Earth's deepest points, including Atlantic Ocean's Puerto Rico Trench, the South Atlantic's South Sandwich Trench, the Java Trench in the Indian Ocean and the Molloy Deep in the Arctic Ocean.

In total, Mr Vescovo and his team made five dives to the bottom of the trench during the expedition.

Deep in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Vescovo dove 35,853 feet beneath the waves, breaking previous records by about 36 feet.

Vescovo's sub, DSV Limiting Factor, utilizes new technology capable of multiple dives due to its a 90-millimeter-thick titanium pressure hull built to withstand the pressure of the deep.

Between 28 April and 5 May 2019, the Limiting Factor completed four dives to the bottom of Challenger Deep and one final dive on 7 May 2019 to the Sirena Deep which is also in the Mariana Trench, approximately 128 miles to the northeast.

The last visit to Challenger Deep also set a depth record at 35,787 feet.

Before Cameron's dive, the first-ever expedition to Challenger Deep was made by the US Navy in 1960, reaching a depth of 10,912 meters.

There are now at least five giant garbage patches located in the North Atlantic, the South Atlantic, the North Pacific, the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean.

Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay were the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest, but Vescovo is quick to point out their achievement was far greater than his in reaching the deepest place on Earth.

"It is nearly indescribable how excited all of us are about achieving what we just did", he said in a release after the completion of the dives. She did confirm that whatever Vescovo found at the bottom of the ocean floor is "something that resembled man made waste" but could not say whether it was a plastic bag.

Millions of tonnes of plastic enter the oceans each year, but where it all goes it a bit of mystery.

Video clips by the Atlantic Production of Vescovo landing on ocean soil do point out an unidentified object in an otherwise barren-looking floor.

The scientists now plan to test the creatures they collected to see if they contain microplastics - a recent study found this was a widespread problem, even for animals living in the deep.

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