Astronaut and oceanographer Kathy Sullivan became the first woman and the fifth person in history to descend to the deepest known spot in the world’s oceans, called the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench, which is seven miles below the surface of the Pacific Ocean.
Sullivan is now the only human who has walked in space and reached the deepest point in the ocean. She made her descent in the two-person submersible ‘Limiting Factor’ as part of Caladan Oceanic’s Ring of Fire Expedition.
The first dive at Challenger Deep was made in 1960 by Lieutenant Don Walsh and Swiss scientist Jacques Piccard on a submersible called ‘Trieste’. The British Ship HMS Challenger discovered Challenger Deep between 1872-1876.
The average depth of the ocean is about 12,100 feet and the deepest part is called the Challenger Deep, which is located below the surface of the western Pacific Ocean. It is approximately 36,200 feet deep.
Most of the existing knowledge of the oceans comes from shallower waters, while deeper waters remain relatively unexplored, even as humans are relying more on these areas for food, energy and other resources.
Finding out more about the deep ocean areas can potentially reveal new sources for medical drugs, food, energy resources and other products.
Significantly, information from the deep oceans can also help to predict earthquakes and tsunamis, and help us understand how we are affecting and getting affected by the Earth’s environment.
Vehicles called Human Occupied Vehicles (HOVs) may be used that carry scientists to the deep sea. Alternatively, there are unmanned Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) that are linked to ships using cables and can be steered by scientists remotely.
Through the expedition, the team hopes to observe volcanic vents, identify new species and conduct the extensive mapping of the US Exclusive Economic Zone at the request of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).