The bright white diver that bounces and bounces in the Pacific Ocean while the water stretches vast and blue as far as the eye can see.
For a few minutes the ship swings in the waves and then disappears, descending seven miles through the depths of the ocean to the bottom of the sea.
Perched on the edge of a dinghy, I look in awe as the £ 28 million capsule silently falls through the crystal clear waters before it finally disappears into the darkness.
Four hours later, on board the support vessel, the DSSV Pressure Drop, the weak voice of the submarine pilot, the explorer Victor Bishop, creaks on the radio to announce that he and the passenger Kelly Walsh have reached the bottom of the Mariana Trench ̵
Nicknamed “the last frontier of exploration”, it is so deep that if Everest were positioned at its base, the top of the mountain would still be 7000 feet below sea level.
The Bishop’s voice took seven seconds to travel through the seven mile vertical wall between the attic and the ship.
The titanium sphere in which he and Kelly are located is subject to 100,000 tons of pressure, the equivalent of the weight of 291 fully loaded jumbo jets or 7,900 double decker buses.
“Welcome to the future” smiles expedition leader Rob McCallum. ‘You just saw the story being made.
‘This is the first and only submarine that can reach the depths of the ocean and return repeatedly and safely. In terms of technology, it’s the equivalent of taking a daily flight into orbit.
“Man knows so little about life at these depths, so we are essentially a crosshair to explore the final and most prohibitive frontier on Earth.”
Mail on Sunday Correspondent Caroline Graham and pilot Victor Bishop in the cockpit of the Triton 36000/2 – DSV Limiting Factor diving into the Mariana Trench
Pictured Caroline on Zodiac looking back at the ship, pressure drop. The pressure drop of 225ft Deep Submergence Support Vessel (DSSV) was built in 1985 by the United States Navy to hunt Russian submarines and is now owned by Bishop, a 6ft 1 ponytail Texan who made a fortune in private equity before using his wealth to finance his love of exploration
I left my home in Los Angeles in the early hours of Sunday June 14, flying from San Francisco to Honolulu and then over Guam (crossing the international date line) to arrive the following evening to meet the ship – a distance of almost 6,100 miles.
Detroit businessman Jim Wigginton, 71, wanted to go “seven miles down” to raise awareness of a thyroid cancer foundation he had founded in memory of his late wife. Bishop put the entire operation up for sale for £ 40 million. He hopes the ship will continue as a privately managed entity. In the photo, Mr. Wigginton collecting stones at the bottom of the Mariana Trench
£ 1.5 million sonar for ocean floor mapping
An important part of the mission is to produce accurate maps of the ocean floor – with the ship equipped with a state-of-the-art 1.5 million pound sonar system, the Kongsberg EM124.
Mapper Kate Von Krusenstiern, 30, says: “This is the most powerful and accurate sonar in the world. Ocean mapping is the basis for discovering the ocean.
“With sound, we can see the mountains, canyons and ridges that define our seabed.”
Sonar sends sound waves to the ocean floor. They bounce back, giving an indication of how deep and what the seabed is made of.
Von Krusenstiern uses data from both sonar and three “landers”, machines that are released every morning on the side of the ship to collect data, soil samples and animals.
He describes the equipment as the “modern version of the use of a weighted rope”.
Last Sunday’s Mail became the only news release invited to participate in the exciting “Ring of Fire” expedition to the Mariana Trench and its deepest point, Challenger Deep.
While only 12 people walked on the moon, until last week they were still more numerous than they had been at the bottom of the world.
Days before I arrived, ex-NASA astronaut Kathy Sullivan was the first woman to go down there, making her the first astronaut turned into aquanaut in the world.
He called it a “magical” experience, saying, “As we slipped on the ocean floor … the lunar landscape was the word that kept coming to me, as if I saw the Moon right here on our planet.”
During my two-week adventure, the submarine made multiple dives into the abyss to study the topography of the trench and the creatures that live in one of the most inhospitable places on Earth.
A high-tech sonar system has mapped Challenger Deep’s western, central, and eastern “puddles” for the first time to reveal that they undulate with slopes and piles of rocks above a bed of primordial slime containing life forms never seen before. human eye.
In a depressing way, we also saw a can of red and fizzy drinks and stacks of thin, discarded plastic cables, demonstrating that man has even managed to pollute this hidden part of our planet.
The story was made by sending Kelly Walsh, the 52-year-old son of Don Walsh, the first man to reach Challenger Deep in 1960. He made the Walshes the first father / son group to repeat an epic exploration “before” (the equivalent would be the son of Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong going to the moon).
On another dive, Bishop was accompanied by Ying-Tsong Lin, a 45-year-old acoustic specialist from Taiwan – a political statement directed at his aggressive Chinese neighbor, who had hoped – but failed – to send a submarine with crew at such depths.
And Bishop, who has now been to the Mariana Trench eight times, also shot down the first “sponsor of the expedition”, 71-year-old American businessman Jim Wigginton, who paid $ 750,000 (£ 608,000) for the privilege.
Getting to one of the most remote places on Earth was an adventure in itself.
I left my home in Los Angeles in the early hours of Sunday June 14, flying from San Francisco to Honolulu and then over Guam (crossing the international date line) to arrive the following evening to meet the ship – a distance of almost 6,100 miles. .
The pressure drop of 225ft Deep Submergence Support Vessel (DSSV) was built in 1985 by the United States Navy to hunt Russian submarines and is now owned by Bishop, a 6ft 1 ponytail Texan who made a fortune in private equity before using his wealth to finance his love of exploration.
Sitting in the chaos of the ship, surrounded by film posters including one for 20,000 leagues under the sea, the 1954 film from Jules Verne’s book that inspired his passion for adventure, the 54-year-old explains why he believes, like Elon Musk with his SpaceX Project, the future of exploration rests in the private sector.
It was simply magical, like seeing the moon right here on our planet
Bishop called his ship and submitted the names of the ships in the science fiction novels of the British writer Iain M. Banks.
He says: “I could not believe that no one had built a reusable submarine capable of exploring the ocean depths. The oceans cover almost three quarters of the Earth’s surface, but over 80% of them remain unexplored. We know more about the Moon than about what is below the waves of our planet.
‘Until relatively recently, the ocean floor was thought to be barren. But it’s full of life – just not life as we know it. There are microorganisms and creatures that have evolved to survive in the most difficult conditions imaginable. Who knows what secrets they hold? The cure for cancer could be sitting deep there. “
Bishop (pictured) called his ship and submitted the names of the ships in the science fiction novels of the British writer Iain M. Banks. Rob McCallum, co-founder of EYOS Expeditions, a British company based in the Isle of Man who organized the first tourist dives at the Titanic, describes Bishop as a “unique customer in life” who is “comfortably rich but not a billionaire”
While only 12 people walked on the moon, until last week they were still more numerous than they had been at the bottom of the world. Days before my arrival, ex NASA astronaut Kathy Sullivan was the first woman to go down there, making her the first astronaut turned aquanaut in the world
The 208 mile journey from Guam to the Mariana Trench takes 24 hours. Warm trade winds blow the bridges, interrupted by sudden violent tropical storms. We see the occasional bird (brown boobies and Bulwer petrels) and a whale shark. Iridescent flying fish graze the waves. The area is so remote that I haven’t seen any other ship in two weeks
Four hours after departure, the weak voice of the submarine pilot, explorer Victor Bishop, creaks on the radio to announce that he and passenger Kelly Walsh have reached the bottom of the Mariana Trench (pictured) – the basis of what it is called threateningly the “hadal zone” after Hades, the Greek god of the underworld
Human knowledge of the oceans has been concentrated at the top of 650 feet, the so-called epipelagic area, where there is enough light for photosynthesis. But that’s only five percent of the ocean’s volume.
The 208 mile journey from Guam to the Mariana Trench takes 24 hours. Warm trade winds blow the bridges, interrupted by sudden violent tropical storms. We see the occasional bird (brown boobies and Bulwer petrels) and a whale shark. Iridescent flying fish graze the waves. The area is so remote that I haven’t seen any other ship in two weeks.
Rob McCallum, co-founder of EYOS Expeditions, a British company based in the Isle of Man who organized the first tourist dives to the Titanic, describes Bishop as a “unique customer in life” who is “comfortably rich but not a billionaire”.
40 new species found, but they too are poisoned by plastic
After the broadcast of Sir David Attenborough’s extraordinary documentary television series Blue Planet II, the great environmentalist said: “Suddenly the world was electrified by the crime of throwing plastic into the ocean.”
Tragically, the Mariana Trench has not escaped this ruin. For scientists, they found plastic in the intestines of small amphipods (small crustaceans like sand fleas) that live four miles below the surface.
The creatures contained polyethylene terephthalate, a plastic commonly used to make household items such as water bottles.
Dr Alan Jamieson, an expert on marine ecology at the University of Newcastle, said: “We will never know how the presence of plastic could affect the feeding, mobility and reproduction of this animal because they are all contaminated.
‘We are polluting the species even before we discover them.’
So far, explorer Victor Vescovo’s expeditions have discovered 40 new species, including a dumbo octopus that lives over a mile deeper than any previously known octopus. “It was a really nice time in natural history,” says Jamieson, considered the world’s leading expert in the so-called ad hoc area.
This is the biogeographical realm in which there is no plant life due to the absence of light.
The area is mainly occupied by carnivorous animals that are often blind or have luminous organs structurally adapted to withstand great pressures.
Addressing the discovery of a can of Coca-Cola dumped on the seabed, Dr. Jamieson states: “In the deep sea, I have seen many cans and bottles, even books, railings, ceramic bowls, many plastic bags, tarpaulins, ropes , twine and, oddly enough, a lot of old shoes. “But he points out that invisible” nanoplastic “is” probably doing more harm “.
Its 12-ton submarine, called Limiting Factor, was conceived by a British man, John Ramsay, who invented revolutionary home design in Devon. It was built by Triton Submarines based in Florida.
Bishop’s childhood enthusiasm fills up as we walk on the bridge where the submarine is enclosed in his own hangar and is lovingly assisted by a team from Triton. Made with a 90 mm thick titanium sphere enclosed in a floating filler made up of millions of empty glass spheres, the submarine seems to have come out of a James Bond film.
From the outside it resembles a futuristic bag. There are three windows, two through and one lower, which give an otherworldly “face”.
Bishop confides to see him as a woman: “She is calm, reliable and very, very hard”.
We go up an external staircase and take off our shoes. I squeeze my body through the hatch and go down a steep staircase before moving to sit in one of the two leather seats inside the hull, just 5 feet wide.
It is like being inside a spaceship, even if Bishop compares it to piloting a helicopter because ten propellers allow it to move vertically and horizontally.
The oxygen cylinders are located above the control panel. A wall of switches fills the area between our seats. There are filters for removing carbon monoxide from the air – screens for showing images from external high definition cameras.
‘It is a mini life support system. Like anything in life, you need to evaluate risk versus return. But I have full confidence in the diver and in my team, “says Bishop.
Are you afraid of death? ‘If something catastrophic happens and the hull implodes, which I don’t think it will ever do, it would be so fast that I wouldn’t know anything. I will be liquefied.
‘We have emergency measures for everything else – fire, entanglement. I can drop weights to quickly move to the surface. We check in with the surface ship every 15 minutes. If I become incapacitated, there is a transition from the dead. An alarm activates and if I don’t answer the alarm, the weights go down automatically.
‘There are duplicate systems in case of battery failure. Thrusters can be ejected if they get tangled up in something. “
Bishop’s first dive into Challenger Deep, when he recorded a depth of 35,843 feet, triggered a timely response from the Titanic film director, James Cameron. Eight years ago, Cameron became the third man (after Don Walsh and the Swiss oceanographer Auguste Piccard in 1960) to reach a depth of 35,787 feet in the Challenger Deep.
Cameron faced his rival for claiming that he went deeper, saying “You can’t go deeper. He is flat and devoid of features in Challenger Deep.” Bishop shrugs his criticism: “Now I have made eight dives, I have taken hours of filming and I can assure you that it is not flat. My answer is to produce a ton of concrete data. There is no fame or celebrity. I am doing it because it is the purest form of exploration. “
On another dive, the Bishop was accompanied by Ying-Tsong Lin (pictured), a 45-year-old acoustic specialist from Taiwan – a political statement directed at his aggressive neighbor China, who had hoped – but failed – to send a submarine with such depths
The story was made by sending Don Walsh’s 52-year-old son Kelly Walsh (pictured right), the first man to reach Challenger Deep in 1960. He made the Walshes the first father / son group to repeat an epic exploration ‘first “(the equivalent would be the son of Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong going to the moon)
His 12-ton submarine, called Limiting Factor (pictured), was conceived by a Briton, John Ramsay, who invented revolutionary home design in Devon. It was built by Triton Submarines based in Florida
The graph shows the internal aspect of the Triton 36000/2 – DSV Limiting Factor, which dives into the Mariana trench
Sitting in the chaos of the ship, surrounded by film posters including one for 20,000 leagues under the sea, the 1954 film from Jules Verne’s book that inspired his passion for adventure, Bishop explains why he believes, like Elon Musk with the his SpaceX project, the future of exploration rests in the private sector
He invited Cameron to join this expedition, to dive beside him, but never received a reply.
The excitement is palpable as the diver is ready for a dive.
2020 was like a catastrophic film but exploration inspires us. People want good news
It was the first Saturday June 20 when Kelly Walsh made history in the footsteps of her father. Kelly says, “I grew up with my dad’s stories. For dad, it was never about medals or records, just exploration and science.
‘It was the same time as the space race. Space was always considered sexier. The exploration of the deep oceans has been ignored. “
Referring to the book The Right Stuff, on the first space flight, he adds: “Dad was always joking about doing” the right thing in the wrong direction “.” The day of diving begins at 5 in the morning with the launch of two robotic “landers”, distributed to help the diver navigate the bottom.
The pressurized steak is excellent
Expedition chef Manfred Umfahrer sent a slab of beef with the submarine to see what effect the intense pressure on the meat would have.
After cooking the steak, which had been placed in a plastic bag with a special marinade, the Austrian chef said: “The beef was super tender.
‘It was salty but otherwise delicious. The pressure forced the marinade into the meat, which gave it an unparalleled depth of flavor. ”
The landers also collect rock and soil samples and have cameras for recording ethereal snail fish and new species of crustaceans.
The submarine launch is an industrial ballet. First, it is laid out by a protective canopy on the edge of the bridge. Attached to a hook, it is lowered into the waves before being disconnected … and then it’s gone. The journey takes 12 hours – four hours less, four hours at the bottom and four hours behind.
Loaded with heavy weights, it falls at a speed of 180 feet per minute.
To get back to the surface, eliminate steel weights (they are considered ecological because they rust and disintegrate) to go back to the surface.
Bishop says he is always asked how he goes to the bathroom? ‘I have a plastic bottle with me, or as the pilots call them, “a range extender”. “
Sitting in the command center at the top, listening to communications from almost seven miles below is unnerving. I sit next to Kelly’s school teacher girlfriend Erin, who is on the edge of her seat. After four hours, Bishop reports that it is time to come.
Shortly after 20:00 there is a faint glow in the water a few hundred meters from the ship.
The pressure squeezes the air out of the polystyrene coffee cups, to the point that when the once regular sized cups re-emerge they have become the size of a thimble
As I watch the submarine be recovered in the dark, I am amazed at how advanced the technology is now that it is possible to send two men down nearly seven miles and safely return them to a specific spot on the surface of the ocean.
An exultant Kub climbs out. ‘Wow! Wow! ‘He says. He went 46 feet deeper than his father and stayed down almost ten times longer.
Later, Kelly tells me that when her father went down 60 years ago, he had no idea where he was going to land. ‘They hit the bottom with a thump and so many sediments arrived that they saw nothing.’
A cup of coffee reduced to the size of a thimble
An eight-ounce cup reduced to the size of a thimble (pictured)
What happens to these cups of coffee when they travel seven miles to the bottom of the world is a dramatic visual demonstration of the effects of colossal deep pressure.
An eight ounce cup is reduced to the size of a thimble because the pressure of 16,000 pounds per square inch crushes the air between the polystyrene beads. Expedition leader Rob McCallum, above, explains: “This is a graphical proof of the effects of the immense pressures found at the depths of the ocean. It provides a challenge to our technology, which must work perfectly because it is one of the most hostile to Earth. “
But today the vision was clear – clear enough to allow him to locate that can of fizzy drinks. They also spotted huge plastic cables. Bishop, a former U.S. Navy reserve intelligence officer, believes it was left behind by a Chinese ship recently spotted in the area.
It is believed to be tied to a hydrophone and part of a listening device.
Bishop also suggested: “The cable could come from remotely managed vehicles”.
Ship captain Alan Dankool, 33, of Glasgow, Scotland, describes working for Victor as “his dream job”.
He says: “It is incredible to be part of a team that is making history. The ship used to hunt Soviet submarines and it is a real character. I learned to love it.
“The fact that we are doing science and mapping, using the best sonar system available and making this knowledge available to the world for free makes this extra special.”
Second engineer Charles Ferguson, 48, from Jura Island, adds: “The crew is from all over the world and we have learned to work together under extreme pressure.
“Ho lavorato nell’industria petrolifera e del gas per tutta la vita, quindi non ho mai fatto prima. È una grande avventura. Riguarda il lavoro di squadra.
“Quando stai facendo ciò che stiamo facendo, hai bisogno di persone intorno a te di cui ti puoi fidare. Stiamo spingendo i confini di ciò che è possibile ogni singolo giorno. ”
L’immersione finale, venerdì, ha portato il primo “sponsor della spedizione” a pagamento al mondo su quello che è stato soprannominato “il viaggio turistico per eccellenza” – sebbene Vescovo si opponga alla parola “turista” perché si sono impegnati in importanti attività di mappatura e raccolta del suolo .
L’uomo d’affari di Detroit Jim Wigginton, 71 anni, voleva andare “sette miglia più in basso” per aumentare la consapevolezza di una fondazione per il cancro alla tiroide che aveva fondato in memoria della sua defunta moglie. Vescovo ha messo in vendita l’intera operazione per £ 40 milioni.
Spera che la nave continui come entità gestita privatamente: “Questa è un’operazione unica e abbiamo dimostrato che funziona.
‘Abbiamo un sub che va bene per altre migliaia di immersioni.’
Con il sole che tramonta sopra la nave mentre torniamo a Guam, gli chiedo perché continua a rischiare la vita per scendere in profondità.
‘Fino ad ora, il 2020 è stato come un trailer di un film disastroso. Ma l’esplorazione ispira le persone.
‘Spero che le persone leggano questo e siano incoraggiate a sostenere la scienza e l’esplorazione, ad essere curiose, a voler proteggere i nostri oceani.
‘Penso che il mondo sia pronto per alcune buone notizie per un cambiamento.’