Is there anywhere as deep or as majestic as the Mariana Trench? This colossal expanse of oceanic mystery has been the source of multiple deep sea investigations over the years, and as such, it’s still regarded as one of the most fascinating sources of diverse marine life. To this day, explorers are continuing to scale the depths of the trench, in an effort to find new creatures and critters who we may not have seen up at the surface before.
How much do you know about the Mariana Trench? Do you know how it got its name? Have you seen movies on the big screen based around its incredible waters? With so much of the world’s underwater mysteries going unexplored, the Mariana really does seem like one of the best in-roads to finding out more about the weird and watery world below us. Here are interesting facts about the Mariana Trench to get absorbed in…
The Mariana Trench is the deepest trench on earth covered by ocean water, a physical feature known as an oceanic trench.
The trench is located 124 miles (200 kilometers) from the Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean.
The islands were named after Queen Mariana of Austria who was married to King Philip IV of Spain, Subsequently the trench was named after the islands.
Challenger Deep’s sonar map
The recorded depth of the trench so far is 36,037 feet (10,984 meters).
‘Challenger Deep’ is the name of the area where the trench is considered to be its deepest.
The trench is approximately 1,580 miles long (2,550 kilometers), with a width of 43 miles (69 kilometers).
The trench takes the form of a ‘crescent’ in shape, adjacent to the islands on the Mariana Plate. Two tectonic plates are found at this site – the larger Pacific Plate is under the Mariana.
The movement of the two plates was instrumental in creating the volcanic ‘Mariana Islands’.
Studies of the plates revealed some of the oldest ‘crustal’ material on the planet, identified to be up to 170 million years old.
It has been noted that where Mount Everest situated at its deepest point, divers would still have two kilometers from the mountain peak to reach the surface of the water!
In 1875, an expedition called ‘Challenger’ used a weighted rope to measure the depth of the trench, and it was recorded at 26,850 feet.
In 1899, the USS Nero recorded a depth of 31,614 feet.
A more accurate method of taking such measurements, was made by Challenger II in 1951, when an echo sounder was put to task. A measurement was recorded at Challenger Deep of 35,760 feet!
As technology improved, clearer pictures and more accurate readings have been possible, even in the most difficult areas to reach. Both sonar and multi-beam echo sounders, together with remotely-operated cameras, have provided increasing detail of what is to be found in the area.
A US Navy hydrographic ship undertook a study to ‘map’ the entire site at 100 meters.
In 2012, extensive seismic surveys of the trench were undertaken and studied by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Washington University.
A number of successful (and unsuccessful) descents have supplied study material for scientists, biologists, engineers, physicists, geologists, and mathematicians over the decades. Exploration has seen partnerships formed and information shared globally.
In 2019 a DSV called ‘Limiting Factor’ was manned by Victor Vescovo – and reached a record depth of 35,850 feet! The vessel was built by Triton Submarines in Florida.
Vescovo was the first person in history to dive Challenger Deep twice!
In 2020, a Russian exploration vessel called ‘Vityaz’ spent three hours in the trench to become the first vessel on record to work there ‘autonomously’!
Newly discovered plants and animals have been found in the Mariana Trench. Since 1960, the discoveries and studies of them have increased substantially. For example, in 2011, a single-celled amoeba in the trench was found to have a giant 4 inch diameter!
In 2014, a record was made for the discovery of a new type of snail fish filmed at a depth of 26,722 feet. It was the first living creature to be filmed on video at such a depth.
Since 2016, concern has risen surrounding pollution in the area. In particular, plastic, and nuclear waste have caused controversy politically and ecologically in regard to their disposal of in the area.
In 2016, researchers examined the bodies of scavenger crustaceans to identify if any had ingested toxic material. Worrying levels of the toxins known as PCBs were found in their systems.
Banned in 1970 for the environmental risk they cause, high rates of this toxin were found at multiple depths in sediment in the trench.
At least one piece of plastic was found in the stomach of EVERY Amphipod tested!
In 2019, a plastic bag containing wrappers is claimed to have been found by Victor Vescovo during one of his historic dives.
In 1972, several oceanic trenches were proposed as viable places to dispose of nuclear waste. The Mariana Trench was one of them.
Environmentalists continue to push for increasing global awareness and interest in protecting the environment from man-made threats. The status of water quality and wildlife at the Mariana Trench is under constant surveillance by the local government.
Some details on protections proposed and regularly carried out can be found in the ‘Coastal Environmental Act’.
The Mariana Trench hit the big screen in 2018 via ‘The Meg’ – a monster movie where Jason Statham is enlisted to help tackle a gigantic prehistoric shark, and to stop it from attacking the Chinese coast!
Do you have any interesting or fun facts about the Mariana Trench that we’ve missed? Share them here in the comments section below!