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article imageDeepest submarine dive ever finds plastic waste in Mariana Trench

By Karen Graham     May 13, 2019 in Science
An American diver broke the record for deepest submarine dive ever and found something disheartening at the bottom of the ocean — a plastic bag. Victor Vescovo traveled seven miles down to the deepest part of the ocean, the Mariana Trench in the Pacific
Victor Vescovo is a retired naval officer and the Dallas-based co-founder of Insight Equity Holdings, a private equity fund. He is also an adventurer and explorer. Vescovo and his team dove to the bottom of the Mariana Trench five times as part of Vescovo's "Five Deeps expedition," his attempt to explore the deepest parts of all five oceans.
In total, he spent four hours exploring the bottom of the trench in his submersible, built to withstand the immense pressure of the deep. The last dive he made reached 10,927 meters (35,849 feet) beneath the waves — setting a new record for the deepest dive ever into the Mariana Trench, the deepest trench in all the world's oceans.
Vescovo is only the third adventurer to ever accomplish the feat. The first deep dive into the Mariana Trench was in 1960 when U.S. Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh and Swiss engineer Jacques Piccard ventured into the deep abyss of the Pacific Ocean. They were followed in 2012 by movie director James Cameron who made a solo trip into the trench.
Vescovo's dive broke the previous record by 52 feet (16 meters), and Don Walsh was there to witness the record-breaking dive. He told BBC News: "I salute Victor Vescovo and his outstanding team for the successful completion of their historic explorations into the Mariana Trench."
"Six decades ago, Jacques Piccard and I were the first to visit that deepest place in the world's oceans. Now in the winter of my life, it was a great honor to be invited on this expedition to a place of my youth."
Lieutenant Don Walsh  USN  and Jacques Piccard in the bathyscaphe TRIESTE.
Location: Marianas Trenc...
Lieutenant Don Walsh, USN, and Jacques Piccard in the bathyscaphe TRIESTE. Location: Marianas Trench Photo dated 1960.
Archival Photography by Steve Nicklas, NOS, NGS/Part of the NOAA Ship Collection
The dives were made in Vescovo's submersible, the "DSV Limiting Factor," collecting biological and rock samples. The team believes they have discovered four new species of prawn-like crustaceans called amphipods, saw a creature called a spoon worm 7,000 meters-down and a pink snailfish at 8,000 meters, all inhabitants of the deep sea, reports CBS News.
However, he also made an unsettling discovery as he descended nearly 6.8 miles to a point in the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench that is the deepest place on Earth, seeing something he was not expecting to come across so deep beneath the surface - trash.
This is a spoon worm (Echiura) like the one Vescovo saw in the Mariana Trench.
This is a spoon worm (Echiura) like the one Vescovo saw in the Mariana Trench.
Photo Collection of Dr. James P. McVey, NOAA Sea Grant Program
Yes, Vescovo had to travel nearly seven miles down into the ocean to find a plastic bag. The team plans on having the sea creatures they collected tested for microplastics. A recent study found this was a widespread problem, even for animals living in the deep.
So far, besides the recent descent into the Mariana Trench, Vescovo has also dived the Puerto Rico Trench in the Atlantic Ocean (8,376m/27,480ft down), the South Sandwich Trench in the Southern Ocean (7,433m/24,388ft) and the Java Trench in the Indian Ocean (7,192m/23,596ft). The last challenge will be to reach the bottom of the Molloy Deep in the Arctic Ocean, an expedition planned for August this year.
More about Mariana trench, plastic waste, prawn species, 68 miles down, Discovery Channel
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