where is the deepest part of the ocean?
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What is the Deepest Part of the Ocean?
The deepest part of the ocean is an oceanic trench that is larger than the Grand Canyon! It’s a place of wonder, mystery, and unfathomable depths; it’s called the Mariana Trench.
Introduction to the Mariana Trench
Far below the sea, there is a 1,580 square mile space called the Mariana Trench. This crescent-shaped depression in the Earth’s crust is nearly 36,070 feet deep! The incredible depth of the Mariana Trench makes it the deepest known part of the ocean by far.
The exact depth of the Mariana Trench remains unknown. So far, it is over 36,000 feet deep as far as scientists have been able to track. Of course, it could be even deeper; researchers and explorers haven’t yet traversed the entire trench. But it remains the single deepest place known to man in any ocean on Earth.
To illustrate exactly how significant the depth of the Mariana Trench is, consider this. The Mariana Trench is deeper than any mountain on Earth is tall. The sheer depth of the Mariana Trench dwarfs even the legendary height of Mount Everest. Imagine standing at the base of Mount Everest, with water reaching above the highest peak!
If you were to actually look upward from the Mariana Trench’s bottom, you would see the tallest rock formation in the world.
Of course, this would be impossible because the pressure at the bottom of the Mariana Trench would be so incredibly great, your body would not be able to withstand it, even in a diving suit. It’s also very dark.
Still, some explorers have dived to the depths in unique ways.
1960 Challenger Deep Expedition
Jacque Piccard and Lieutenant Don Walsh of the United States Navy reached the bottom of Challenger Deep in 1960. Challenger Deep is thought to be the deepest part of the Mariana Trench.
While Walsh and Picquard’s successful expedition was inspiring, there is still much to discover about the ocean’s deepest part. But the incredible amount of pressure in the Mariana Trench makes it incredibly challenging to explore its mysterious depths.
It may take many years of technological innovation to complete the Mariana Trench exploration, if ever.
2021 Space-Deep Dive
In early 2021, Richard Garriott hopped aboard a deep submergence vehicle to head down into Challenger Deep. Garriott has also traveled from pole to pole and into space, but diving down into the Mariana Trench was something new for the explorer.
The expedition aimed to collect some rock samples, but that didn’t work out the way the team had hoped. But they collected plenty of data — and photographs — to bring back. In fact, they also took measurements of their submarine vehicle and found that it shrunk due to the pressure of the water at those depths.
Descending into the trench took about four hours, which is certainly shorter than most outer space adventures. Still, there’s much to learn about the depths of the ocean, and more expeditions like Garriott’s are no doubt in the future.
Interesting Facts About the Deepest Part of the Ocean
Even though there is still a lot that we don’t know about it, there are still plenty of interesting facts that we do. At 180 million years old, the Mariana Trench is not just the deepest part of the ocean; it also happens to be one of the most ancient seabeds on Earth.
How did the Mariana Trench get its name? Discovered in 1875, the Mariana Trench was named after the nearby Mariana Islands.
The HMS Challenger, using its sounding equipment, discovered the Mariana Trench. The late 1800s were an age of discovery in which people enjoyed a combination of maritime technology and a thirst for discovery.
Mariana’s Tectonic Plates
One fact that researchers learned is that the shape and geographical features of the Mariana Trench is due to interactions between the Earth’s tectonic plates.
Two tectonic plates moved in such a way that they birthed the volcanic Mariana Islands and influenced the creation of the Mariana Trench. Seismic surveys of the Mariana Trench are still ongoing, and the activity in the trench is “dragging” water into deep Earth, researchers say.
More water than scientists realized that the subduction zones are sucking water miles below the surface of the Earth. Such research reveals that Earth’s water cycle is far more complicated than scientists thought!
1. Build background on the deepest place on Earth.
Have a whole-class discussion. Ask:
What is the highest point in the world and where is it located? (Mount Everest at approximately 8,850 meters, or 29,035 feet; located on the borders of Nepal and China)
What is the deepest location on Earth and where is it located?
Elicit student responses. Then explain to students that the Mariana Trench is the deepest part of the ocean and the deepest location on Earth. It is 11,034 meters (36,201 feet) deep, which is almost 7 miles. Tell students that if you placed Mount Everest at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the peak would still be 2,133 meters (7,000 feet) below sea level. Show students NOAA’s Mariana Trench animation. Tell them that the animation reflects actual digital bathymetric data, which is measurement data of water depth.
2. Have students locate the Mariana Trench on a map.
Show students the NG Education interactive map and invite a volunteer to pinpoint the location of the Mariana Trench, which is just to the east of the Mariana Islands. Ask: The Trench is in what ocean? (the Pacific Ocean) Have students note the nearest bodies of land—Guam and the Mariana Islands. Tell students that the Trench is 2,500 kilometers (1,554 miles) long and 70 kilometers (44 miles) wide.
3. Discuss who has jurisdiction over the Mariana Trench.
Review the concept of jurisdiction. Tell students that jurisdiction is the power or right to exercise authority. Have students look at the location of the Trench again. Ask: Who do you think has jurisdiction over, and therefore responsibility for, the resources of the Mariana Trench? Explain to students that according to the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) a country has the rights to all living and non-living resources up to 200 nautical miles from its coastline. To help students understand this distance in terms they recognize, have them convert the nautical miles to standard miles by multiplying nautical miles by 1.15 to get an answer of 230 standard miles. Point out that Guam is a territory of the U.S. and the Mariana Islands are a commonwealth of the U.S., so the U.S. has jurisdiction.
4. Have students identify how researchers can access the Trench.
Ask students to share their ideas about how researchers might access an area this deep. Go to NOAA’s Ocean Explorer website and explore the technology and photos as a class. Ask students to identify the challenges of exploring the deepest location on Earth. Students’ responses should include darkness, cold, and crushing pressures.
HOW DEEP IS THE MARIANA TRENCH?
The Trench sits like a crescent-shaped dent in the floor of the Pacific Ocean, extending over 1500 miles long with an average width around 43 miles and a depth of almost 7 miles (or just under 36,201 feet). At that depth, the weight of all that water above makes the pressure in the Trench around 1000 times higher than it would be in, say, Miami or New York. Floor vents release bubbles of liquid sulfur and carbon dioxide. Temperatures are just above freezing, and everything is drowning in darkness.
For comparison(where is the deepest part of the ocean?)
For comparison, most ocean life lives above a depth of 660 feet.
Nuclear submarines hover around 850 feet below the surface as they travel through the ocean waters. Whales aren’t usually seen below about 8,200 feet.
The site of Jack and Rose’s true (albeit fictional) love, the sunken Titanic, can be found at 12,467 feet.
According to National Geographic,
if you were to put Mount Everest at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, its peak would still sit around 7,000 feet below sea level.
Toward the southern end of the Mariana Trench lies the Challenger Deep.
It sits 36,070 feet below sea level, making it the point most distant from the water’s surface and the deepest part of the Trench.
While the number of people that have climbed to the top of Mount Everest,
the Earth’s highest point, holds somewhere in the thousands,
only 3 divers have ever explored the Challenger Deep.
The first expedition(where is the deepest part of the ocean?)
The first expedition happened in 1960 when Jacques Piccard and Navy Lt.
Don Walsh reached the Challenger Deep in a U.S. Navy submersible.
They were only able to spend 20 minutes there due to the extreme pressures,
and their arrival stirred up too much dust from the seafloor for them to take any pictures.
The next visitor didn’t arrive until over 50 years later in 2012,
when filmmaker and science fiction aficionado James Cameron solo dived to the Challenger Deep in a submarine he designed himself.
Cameron was able to spend three hours there.
And, of course, he captured video and took many photos—he is a Hollywood filmmaker, after all.
The extreme pressures took a toll on his equipment, though.
Batteries drained, sonar died, and some of his vessel’s thrusters to malfunctioned,
making it hard to maneuver.
Life in the Deepest Part of the Ocean(where is the deepest part of the ocean?)
Contrary to what you might expect from the deepest part of the ocean,
the Mariana Trench supports many life forms. The Mariana Snailfish is perhaps one of the most iconic residents of the Trench.
The Mariana Snailfish’s body structure even inspired the creation of the soft robot
that made a recent dive 10,900 feet under the Mariana Trench’s surface.
As the deepest part of the ocean,
the Mariana Trench is not a particularly inviting place.
It’s a highly acidic environment that is virtually devoid of sunlight.
Yet the black depths of the Mariana Trench support 200 microorganisms,
including amphipods and a surprising variety of crustaceans.
One of the most exciting prospects of the continued efforts
to explore the Mariana Trench is the possibility of discovering new species.
After all, as surprised as researchers were to learn
that many species thrive so deep under the ocean,
now they realize there are even greater possibilities lurking under the surface.
Although it is true that the more we uncover, the less there is to know,
there is something glorious about the idea of discovering new species living in the deepest part of the ocean.