Following one of the most adventurous ocean expeditions ever, scientists have returned precise measurements for the deepest points in each of the world’s five major oceans.
Data from the Five Deeps Expedition (FDE), which performed dives over the course of 10 months from 2018 to 2019, confirms for the first time the locations of the deepest points of Indian Ocean and the Southern Ocean.
The deepest point of the Indian Ocean is at 7,187 metres, within the Java Trench, just off the coast of Indonesia, the data reveals, while the deepest point of the Southern Ocean has a depth of 7,432 metres, within the South Sandwich Trench.
Prior to FDE, the deepest parts of some oceans were relatively well known, such as lowest point on Earth – the Challenger Deep, inside the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean.
At a whopping 10,924 metre (6.8-miles), the Challenger Deep still holds the record for the deepest point on Earth, the expeditions confirmed.
While the deepest point in the Atlantic Ocean is called Brownson Deep in the Puerto Rico Trench, which descends an impressive 8.378 metres.
Image shows the location of the deepest points within each of the world’s oceans (Atlantic, Southern, Indian, Pacific and Arctic)
The new measurements for each of the deepest points in the world’s five oceans and their coordinates
The Five Deeps Expedition was a successful 10-month mission to travel to the deepest point in each of the world’s five major oceans – Atlantic, Southern, Indian, Pacific and Arctic.
The expedition, which covered 47,000 nautical miles, completed 39 dives using Limiting Factor (LV) – a two-person submersible built by Florida-based company Triton Submarines.
LV carried the latest‐generation, full‐ocean depth multibeam echosounder – which emits a series of sound pulses – in order to map each part of the seafloor.
Now, a team of researchers, including experts from the British Geological Survey, has authored a new study on the mission’s findings, published in Geoscience Data Journal.
The study was led by Cassandra Bongiovanni chief hydrographic surveyor for the FDE.
‘The global Five Deeps Expedition allowed us a unique opportunity to accurately map some of the most remote and deepest places in the world, and to validate these depths with measurements collected by the submersible and support landers,’ she said.
Mariana Trench, is about 124 miles east of the Mariana Islands off the coast of the Philippines, is already known to be the deepest spot in the Pacific Ocean
Triton DSV Limiting Factor can dive to depths of 36,000 feet and fits two passengers plus a pilot
‘Access to state-of-the-art full-ocean depth technology allowed us to map an area equivalent to continental France in only 10 months.
‘Around 61 per cent of where we went had never been mapped using modern technology.’
Prior to Five Deeps, there had been some uncertainties regarding the deepest points in the Indian Ocean and Southern Ocean.
For example, two possible locations for the deepest point in the Indian Ocean had previously been identified – Java Trench and Diamantina Fracture Zone (DFZ).
FDE data now shows Java Trench takes the title of deepest point in the Indian Ocean, at 7,187 metres (4.4 miles), more than the DFZ’s 7,019 metres.
The expedition, which covered 47,000 nautical miles in 10 months, completed 39 dives using Limiting Factor (LV) – a two-person submersible built by Florida-based company Triton Submarines. Graph shows how the depth of Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench – the deepest point on Earth – exceeds the height of Mount Everest
As for the Southern Ocean, the South Sandwich Trench, located just north of the Antarctic continent, had not been thoroughly explored prior to FDE.
South Sandwich Trench is the only sub-zero hadal zone (deeper than 6,000 metres, or 20,000 feet) in the world.
The recently named Factorian Deep, located at the southern end of the trench, measures 7,432 metres deep.
The new data has also shown that although the deepest point of the South Sandwich Trench is Meteor Deep at 8,265 metres, it is located within the waters of the Atlantic Ocean – meaning Factorian Deep takes the crown.
The Limiting Factor (pictured) is a two-man vessel that is capable of diving to full ocean depth. It is the world’s first and only manned-submersible certified for dives to 36,000 feet
This study has also confirmed that the Horizon Deep within the Tonga Trench is the second deepest point in the Pacific Ocean (at 10,816 metres).
Key to the findings were the $35 million Triton DSV Limiting Factor – the only submersible in the world capable of diving to the deepest ocean depth (11,000 metres, or 36,000 feet).
Limiting Factor is the first vehicle in history that has repeatedly gone to the deepest point in the ocean.
At such depths, characterised by immense pressures, extreme darkness and almost freezing temperatures, only specialised microorganisms can survive.
The privately funded exploration vehicle is specialised for the hadal zone of the deep ocean, which exists at in V-shaped depressions at around 20,000 to 36,000 feet.
The hadal zone of the ocean – named after Hades, the ancient Greek god of the dead – exists around 20,000 to 36,000 feet below the ocean surface
FDE was launched by Victor Vescovo, an American former intelligence officer turned millionaire financier who was aboard LV for all five missions.
In May 2019, Victor Vescovo became the fourth person in history to reach Challenger Deep as part of the expedition.
Over the course of seven days, Vescovo made fives dives in the Mariana Trench.
As well as three new species of marine life, and the deepest piece of recovered mantle rock, Vescovo and his team found a plastic bag and a candy wrapper – a stark reminder of the scale of plastic pollution.
WHAT DOES DEEP-SEA DEBRIS DATABASE REVEAL ABOUT OCEAN PLASTIC POLLUTION?
Plastic pollution is a scourge that is ravaging the surface of our planet. Now, the polluting polymer is sinking down to the bottom of the ocean.
The deepest part of the ocean is found in the Mariana Trench, located in the western Pacific Ocean, to the east of the Mariana Islands. It stretches down nearly 36,100 feet (11,000 metres) below the surface.
One plastic bag was found 35,754 feet (10,898 metres) below the surface in this region, the deepest known piece of human-made pollution in the world. This single-use piece of plastic was found deeper than 33 Eiffel towers, laid tip to base, would reach.
Whilst the plastic pollution is rapidly sinking, it is also spreading further into the middle of the oceans. A piece of plastic was found over 620 miles (1,000 km) from the nearest coast – that’s further than the length of France.
The Global Oceanographic Data Center (Godac) of the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (Jamstec) launched for public use in March 2017.
In this database, there is the data from 5,010 different dives. From all of these different dives, 3,425 man-made debris items were counted.
More than 33 per cent of the debris was macro-plastic followed by metal (26 per cent), rubber (1.8 per cent), ﬁshing gear (1.7 per cent), glass (1.4 per cent), cloth/paper/lumber (1.3 per cent), and ‘other’ anthropogenic items (35 per cent).
It was also discovered that of all the waste found, 89 per cent of it was designed for single-use purposes. This is defined as plastic bags, bottles and packages. The deeper the study looked, the greater the amount of plastic they found.
Of all man-made items found deeper than 20,000 feet (6,000 metres), the ratios increased to 52 per cent for macro-plastic and 92 per cent for single-use plastic.
The direct damage this caused to the ecosystem and environment is clear to see as deep-sea organisms were observed in the 17 per cent of plastic debris images taken by the study.