Diver Travels to Bottom of the Mariana Trench, Finds Trash Already There

This story made the rounds last week while I was away in Mexico, and even though I’m a little late to the party I thought it was worth mentioning here nonetheless.

Deep sea diver Victor Vescovo set a new record for the lowest dive ever conducted when he descended into the Challenger Deep inside the Mariana Trench. Vescovo dropped to a depth of 35,850 feet (10,927 meters), which beats the previous record –– held by filmmaker James Cameron –– by 53 feet (16 meters). He spent four hours charting the region, where he encountered a surprising amount of life.

Vescovo –– who is a businessman from Texas –– says there were unusual fish and simple creatures to be found nearly all the way down into the trench, and even there he spotted what he believes to be four potential new species too.

The dive, which lasted four hours, was filmed as part of an upcoming documentary series that will air on the Discovery Channel later this year. The five-part program is entitled Five Deeps Expedition and it follows similar journeys into the five deepest points in each of the Earth’s oceans. Vescovo’s journey was the final one of those dives to be completed and the most dangerous and difficult as well.

While Victor’s success is certainly to be celebrated, after all we know less about the floor of the oceans than we do the surface of the moon, there were other aspects of his journey that made headlines. While in the Challenger Deep he not only witnessed some of the most unique life and landscapes on the planet, he also got a first hand look at how the planet’s oceans are threatened.

There, at what is arguably the most remote place on Earth, he spotted a plastic bag and candy wrappers that somehow drifted down to that point. If that doesn’t open our eyes to the impact we are having on our oceans, I’m not sure what will.

After the dive was completed Vescovo indicated that he believes we’re on the edge of a golden age of deep sea exploration. New technologies have made it much easier and safer to descend into the depths of the Mariana Trench and other such locations around the world.

In other words, we could be seeing more explorers following in his footsteps very soon. Whether they will find more trash when they get there remains to be seen.

Kraig Becker