Deepest-ever manned dive ‘finds plastic bag at bottom of Mariana Trench’


Victor Vescovo, a retired naval officer from Texas, broke the record for the deepest dive into a part of the Mariana Trench known as Challenger Deep, the deepest known point in the Earth's seabed. He told BBC News: "I salute Victor Vescovo and his outstanding team for the successful completion of their historic explorations into the Mariana Trench". Its mission is to chart and conduct detailed sonar mapping at the five deepest places in the ocean: the Puerto Rico Trench (Atlantic Ocean), the South Sandwich Trench (South Atlantic), the Java Trench (Indian Ocean) and Molloy Deep (Arctic Ocean), according to CNN. He took the journey with Swiss oceanographer and engineer Jacques Piccard.

What's more shocking in the report is the epidemic proportions of plastic in the world's oceans, with an estimated 100 million tonnes dumped there to date.

Vescovo and his team saw a pink snailfish, a spoonworm and also discovered four new species whose genetic information could help with medical research.

The last visit to the bottom of Challenger Deep was made in 2012 by filmmaker and explorer James Cameron, who reached a depth of 10,908 meters on a dive in his submersible, the Deepsea Challenger.

"It was very disappointing to see obvious human contamination of the deepest point in the ocean", Vescovo was quoted as saying by news agency Reuters. For more than four hours, alone but unfazed, the American businessman and explorer piloted the vessel down into the abyss of the Challenger Deep, the 11km-long depression at the southern tip of the Mariana Trench that contains the deepest known area of the planet's sea bed. The team says scientists intend to test the deep sea creatures for plastic build-up.

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Sea creatures swim around part of a submersible lander, illuminated by the light of the submarine DSV Limiting Factor on the floor of the Mariana Trench. According to the BBC, the pressure at the bottom of the ocean is equal to about 50 jumbo jets piled on top of a person. They found one 8,530 feet (2,600 m) below the surface, one 14,600 feet (4,450 m) and two at the deepest point they reached.

As well as working under pressure, the sub has to operate in the pitch black and near freezing temperatures.

Previous studies have identified microplastics in the water we drink and the fish we eat, as well as researchers finding it in Antarctica's pristine waters.

The challenges of exploring the deep ocean - even with robotic vehicles - has made the ocean trenches one of the last frontiers on the planet. There is also growing evidence that they are carbon sinks, playing a role in regulating the Earth's chemistry and climate.