American businessman and explorer Victor Vescovo confirmed this week he’s completed his Five Deeps Expedition, making him the first person to descend to the five deepest known spots of the Earth’s oceans.
His last stop—to the bottom of the 18,208-foot Molloy Hole in the Molloy Deep off the coast of Svalbard, the deepest spot in the Arctic Ocean—capped the ten-month expedition which began with a trip to the bottom of the Puerto Rico Trench, the deepest spot in the Atlantic Ocean last December, Francesca Street at CNN reports.
After descending to the Puerto Rico Trench, Vescovo, age 53, piloted his $35 million Triton submersible, called the Deep Submergence Vehicle (DSV) Limiting Factor, into the Antarctic Ocean’s South Sandwich Trench in February, the Java Trench in the Indian Ocean in April and the Mariana Trench, the world’s deepest in May, where he set a new record for the deepest dive ever and the longest time spent in the trench. The final dive, to the bottom of Molloy Hole, marked the first time a human has descended to the spot. Back in July, before finishing his quest, Vescovo also made a detour to visit the wreck of the Titanic, which his team found to be rapidly deteriorating.
The Dallas native is a noted adventurer and has skied to both the North and South Poles and climbed the highest mountain on each of the planet’s seven continents. This mission, however, was more than just a record-setting attempt. “These things need to be done,” he tells Jonathan Amos at the BBC. "I come from a philosophy that says we're put here not just to survive, or even just to be comfortable - but to contribute in some way. And the path I chose was to have some adventure whilst also doing something that could move us forward as a species.”
According to a press release, as part of the mission, Vescovo and his team aboard the support vessel Pressure Drop deployed over 100 landers in 13 locations. In total, the instruments, which record water data as they sink to the ocean floor, collected 1.5 million meters worth of information. The team also discovered at least 40 species new to science during the expedition, collected 400,000 biological samples and retrieved water samples from the bottom of each of the five locations. The sub also mapped the seafloor as it went along, exploring an area roughly the size of Italy and discovering 30 new nameable underwater features.
The measurements of water temperature and salinity may help researchers refine models of ocean currents and climate change. “We have so few measurements from the deepest parts of the oceans, from below 6,000m,” Alan Jamieson, expedition chief scientist of Newcastle University, tells Amos.
Now that the mission has wrapped, Vescovo tells Josh Dean at Popular Science that he hopes Limiting Factor, which has made 40 dives, can be put it to good use elsewhere. The custom-built submersible, which can withstand the intense pressures of the deepest oceans, could last for thousands of more research dives over decades. “[The deep sea is] this big impenetrable mystery,” he says. “We feel like we have just created, validated, and opened a powerful door to discover and visit any place, any time, in the ocean—which is 90 percent unexplored.”