Life At The End Of The Planet’s Deepest Point – Mariana Trench

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While thousands of climbers have successfully scaled Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth, only a handful of people have descended to the deepest point on earth, “The Challenger Deep” in the Mariana Trench. Named after a Spanish Queen (Mariana of Austria or Maria Anna) Mariana Trench is located in the western Pacific Ocean, east of the Philippines and about 120 miles east of the Mariana Islands.

Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench near Guam is the deepest known point on Earth. Mariana Trench is series of deep troughs that cut across the ocean surface. These Trench’s are formed when two tectonic plates collide with each other, one of the plate dives beneath the other into the Earth’s mantle, end up creating an ocean trench.

The depths of the Mariana Trench were first sounded by the British ship during the Challenger expedition in 1875, using a weighted rope, which recorded a depth of 8,184 metres (26,850 feet).

The first time humans descended into the Challenger Deep was more than 50 years ago when two expeditions successfully plumbed the almost seven mile depths of the Challenger Deep. It took them about 5 long hours to get to the Challengers Dive. The pair spent about 20 minutes at the bottom before surfacing.

In 2012 Canadian Filmmaker James Cameron descended to the bottom of the Challenger deep in a 24 feet submersible manned craft. Cameron descended 35,756 feet (10.89 km) to reach the “Challenger Deep. The project was a joint scientific expedition by Cameron, National Geographic and Rolex to conduct deep sea research and exploration

There is no sunlight at 3,280 feet below the surface and the temperature hovers just above freezing. The water pressure in the trench is nearly thousand times greater than the standard atmospheric pressure at sea level. The pressure is so high that it will crush any creature or manmade object, unless that earthling or object is built specifically to withstand those extreme conditions.

And since it’s completely dark, any living creature there require specialized adaptations, such as bioluminescence – AKA the ability to glow in the dark or glowing photophores, bodily organs that emit light to survive.

A couple of manned and unmanned vehicles have parted the waters of the trench in recent years, proving that there are indeed creatures living there. Discoveries in the Challenge Deep included “vibrantly colorful” rocky outcrops that could be chemical deposits, prawn like supergiant amphopods, and bottom dwelling Holothurians or sea cucumbers.

Scientists believe there are many new species awaiting discovery and many unanswered questions about how animals survive in these extreme conditions. Researchers are particularly interested in microorganisms living in the trenches, which they say could lead to breakthroughs in biotechnology & bio-medicine.

Furthermore, studying rocks from trenches could lead to a better understanding of the tremors that create the powerful and devastating tsunamis seen around the Pacific Rim, geologists say.