The Mariana Trench, interesting facts and mysteries

Mariana Trench

Mariana Trench, the lowest and deepest point of the planet, for centuries, has been concealing a number of mysteries not fully capable of study even the most advanced scientific equipment. Legends and daring theories about the origin of all life on Earth have repeatedly been based on the realities of this unique geographical site, where the monstrous water pressure, it would seem, well, not “dispose” to the comfortable existence of living organisms, but, nevertheless, they are there!

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Video: Who lives at the bottom of the Mariana Trench?

Highlights

The Mariana Trench is located in the western Pacific Ocean, not far from the Mariana Islands, just two hundred kilometers away, due to its proximity to which it gets its name. It is a huge marine reserve with the status of a U.S. national monument, so it is protected by the state. Fishing and mining is strictly prohibited here, but you can swim and admire the beauty.

The shape of the Mariana Trench resembles a grandiose crescent – 2550 km long and 69 km wide. The deepest point – 10994 m below sea level – is called “Challenger Abyss”.

Discovery and first observations

The Mariana Trench was first explored by the British. In 1872, a sailing corvette Challenger entered the waters of the Pacific Ocean with scientists and the most advanced equipment of the time. Conducting measurements, established the maximum depth – 8367 m. The value, of course, differs markedly from the correct result. But even this was enough to understand: the deepest point of the globe has been discovered. So another natural mystery was “challenged” (Challenger means “challenging”). The years went by, and in 1951 the British did “work on the mistakes. Namely, a deep-water echo sounder recorded a maximum depth of 10863 meters.

The bathyscaphe Trieste before diving, January 23, 1960

Then the baton was taken over by Russian explorers who sent the research vessel Vityaz to the area of the Mariana Trench. In 1957, using special equipment, they not only managed to fix the depth of the pit, equal to 11022 m, but also found the presence of life at a depth of more than seven kilometers. Thus, a small revolution in the scientific world of the mid-20th century, where there was a strong belief that such a deep living creatures do not and can not be. Here begins the most interesting … Many stories about underwater monsters, giant octopuses, crumpled into a cake by huge paws of beasts unseen bathyscaphes … Where true, where false – let’s try to understand.

Secrets, mysteries and legends

The first daredevils to dive to the “bottom of the Earth” were U.S. Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh and explorer Jacques Picard. They dived on the bathyscaphe Trieste, which was built in the Italian city of the same name. Quite a heavy construction with thick 13-centimeter walls dived to the bottom for five hours. Having reached the lowest point, the researchers were there for 12 minutes, after which they immediately began to rise, which took about 3 hours. Fish were found on the bottom – flat, flounder-like, about 30 centimeters long.

Research continued, and in 1995, the Japanese descended into the “abyss”. Another “breakthrough” was made in 2009 with the automatic submersible “Nereus”: this miracle of technology has not only made some pictures at the deepest point of the Earth, but also took samples of soil.

In 1996, the New York Times published a shocking report on the sinking of equipment into the Mariana Trench from the U.S. research vessel Glomar Challenger. The spherical deep-sea submersible was affectionately nicknamed “the hedgehog” by the crew. Some time after the start of the dive, instruments recorded terrifying sounds reminiscent of the grinding of metal on metal. The “hedgehog” was immediately raised to the surface and people were horrified: a huge steel construction was crumpled, and the strongest and thickest (20 cm in diameter!) cable looked as if it had been sawn. A lot of explanations were found at once. Some said that it was a “trick” of monsters inhabiting the natural object, others inclined to the version about the presence of alien intelligence, and others thought that it was not without a mutated octopus! True, there was no evidence, and all the assumptions remained at the level of speculation and conjecture…

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A similar mysterious case occurred with the German research team, who decided to lower the apparatus “Heifisch” into the waters of the abyss. But for some reason it stopped moving, and the cameras impartially showed on the screens of monitors the image of a shocking size lizard, which tried to chew the steel “contraption”. The team didn’t get confused and scared off the unknown beast with an electric discharge from the machine. It swam away and never appeared again… We can only regret that for some reason those who came across such unique inhabitants of the Mariana Trench, lacked the equipment that would allow to photograph them.

In the late 90s of the last century, at the time of the “discovery” by the Americans of the monsters of the Mariana Trench, the “growth” of this geographical object with legends began. Fishermen (poachers) told of glows from its depths, lights running back and forth, and various unidentified flying objects popping up from there. Crews of small ships reported that vessels in the area were being “towed with tremendous speed” by a monster with incredible strength.

Confirmed Testimonies

Along with the many legends associated with the Mariana Trench, there are incredible facts supported by hard evidence.

Found tooth of a giant shark

In 1918, Australian lobster fishermen told of a clear white fish about 30 meters long that they had seen in the sea. It was described as resembling an ancient shark of the species Carcharodon megalodon, which inhabited the seas 2 million years ago. Scientists from the surviving remains were able to recreate the shark’s appearance – a monstrous creature 25 meters long, weighing 100 tons, and an impressive two-meter jaws with teeth 10 cm each. Can you imagine such “teeth”! And they were recently found by oceanologists at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean! The “youngest” of the found artifacts … “only” 11 thousand years!

This finding allows us to be sure that not all megalodons became extinct two million years ago. Maybe the waters of the Mariana Trench hide these incredible predators from human eyes? Research continues; the depths still hold many unsolved mysteries.

Peculiarities of the deep world

The water pressure at the lowest point of the Mariana Trench is 108.6 MPa, that is, it exceeds the normal atmospheric pressure by 1072 times. A vertebrate animal simply cannot survive in such monstrous conditions. But, strange as it may seem, mollusks have survived here. It is not clear how their shells can withstand such a colossal water pressure. The clams found here are an incredible example of “survival”. They exist next to serpentine hydrothermal vents. Serpentine contains hydrogen and methane, which not only do not threaten the “population” found here, but also contribute to the formation of living organisms in such a seemingly aggressive environment. But hydrothermal springs also emit hydrogen sulfide, a deadly gas for mollusks. But “cunning” and thirsty for life mollusks have learned to convert hydrogen sulfide into protein, and continue, as they say, to live happily in the Mariana Trench.

Another incredible mystery of the deep-sea object is the hydrothermal spring “Champagne”, named after the famous French (and not only) alcoholic beverage. It’s all about the bubbles that “bubble up” in the waters of the spring. Of course, these are not the bubbles of your favorite champagne – they are liquid carbon dioxide. Thus, the only underwater source of liquid carbon dioxide in the world is located in the Mariana Trench. Such springs are called “white smokers”, their temperature is lower than the ambient temperature, and there is always white smoke-like vapor around them. Thanks to these sources, the hypotheses of the origin of all life on earth was born in water. Low temperature, abundance of chemicals, enormous energy – all this created perfect conditions for the ancient representatives of flora and fauna.

The temperature in the Mariana Trench is also very favorable – from 1 to 4 degrees Celsius. This is taken care of by the “black smokers”. Being the antipode of the “white smokers” hydrothermal springs contain a large amount of ore substances, and therefore they are dark in color. These springs are located here at a depth of about 2 kilometers and spew out water whose temperature is about 450 degrees Celsius. Immediately school physics course comes to mind, from which we know that the water is boiling at 100 degrees Celsius. So what happens? Is the spring spewing boiling water? Fortunately, no. It’s all about the enormous pressure of the water – it’s 155 times higher than on the surface of the Earth, so the H2It does not boil, but it warms up the waters of the Mariana Trench. The water of these hydrothermal springs is incredibly rich in various minerals, which also contributes to the comfortable habitation of living creatures.

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Clams in the Mariana Trench The Champagne Hydrothermal Spring, which releases pure liquid carbon dioxide

Incredible Facts

How many more mysteries and incredible wonders does this incredible place hold? Many. At a depth of 414 meters, the Daikoku volcano is another proof that life originated here, at the deepest point of the globe. In the crater of the volcano, under the water is a lake of pure molten sulfur. In this “cauldron” sulfur bubbles at a temperature of 187 degrees Celsius. The only known analogue of such a lake is on Jupiter’s satellite, Io. There is nothing else like it on Earth. Only in space. No wonder that most of the hypotheses about the origin of life from water are related to this mysterious deep-sea object in the Pacific.

A giant 10-centimeter amoeba xenophyophora

Let’s remember a little bit of high school biology. The simplest living creatures are amoebae. Tiny, unicellular, you can see them only under a microscope. They reach, as it is written in textbooks, a length of half a millimeter. In the Mariana Trench, giant toxic amoebas were found 10 centimeters long. Can you imagine such a thing? Ten centimeters! That is, this single-celled living creature can be clearly seen with the naked eye. Isn’t it a miracle? As a result of scientific research, it was found that amoebae acquired such a giant size for its class of unicellular organisms, adapting to the “unsweetened” life at the bottom of the sea. Cold water, coupled with its enormous pressure and lack of sunlight, contributed to the “growth” of the amoebae, which are called xenophyophores. Incredible abilities of xenophyophores are quite astonishing: they have adapted to the influence of most destructive substances – uranium, mercury, lead. And they live in this environment, just like mollusks. In general, the Mariana Trench is a miracle of miracles, where all living and non-living things combine perfectly, and the most harmful chemical elements, which can kill any organism, not only do not harm the living things, but, on the contrary, contribute to their survival.

The seabed here has been studied in some detail and is of no particular interest – it is covered with a layer of viscous slime. There is no sand there, there are only remnants of crushed shells and plankton that have been lying there for thousands of years and have long turned into a thick mud of grayish-yellow color because of water pressure. Only explorers’ bathyscaphes, descending here from time to time, disturb the calm and measured life of the sea bottom.

The inhabitants of the Mariana Trench

Exploration continues

Everything secret and unexplored has always attracted man. And with each solved mystery new mysteries on our planet did not become less. All this fully applies to the Mariana Trench.

At the end of 2011, researchers discovered in it unique natural formations made of stone, shaped like bridges. Each of them stretched from one end to the other for as much as 69 km. Scientists had no doubts: this is where the tectonic plates – Pacific and Philippine plates – meet, and the stone bridges (four in total) were formed at their junction. However, the first of the bridges, Dutton Ridge, was discovered in the late 1980s. It impressed then with its size and height, which were the size of a small mountain. At its highest point, located just above the Challenger Chasm, this deep-sea “ridge” reaches two and a half kilometers.

Why did nature need to build such bridges, and moreover, in such a mysterious place inaccessible to people? The purpose of the named objects is still unclear. In 2012, James Cameron, the creator of the legendary film “Titanic” dived into the Mariana Trench. The unique equipment and powerful cameras installed on his DeepSea Challenge bathyscaphe made it possible to film the majestic and desolate “bottom of the Earth”. No one knows how much time he would have spent observing the local scenery if certain malfunctions had not occurred on the submersible. In order not to risk his life, the explorer was forced to rise to the surface.

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Bridges in the Mariana Trench James Cameron in the DeepSea Challenge

Together with The National Geographic, the talented filmmaker created the documentary “DeepSea Challenge.” In his account of the dive, he called the bottom of the trench “the frontier of life.” Emptiness, silence, and – nothing, not the slightest movement or agitation of water. No sunlight, no mollusks, no algae, much less sea monsters. But this is only at first glance. More than twenty thousand different microorganisms were found in the samples of the bottom soil that Cameron took. A huge number. How do they survive under such incredible water pressure? It is still a mystery. Among the inhabitants of the depression, a shrimp-like amphipod has also been found producing a unique chemical that is being tested by scientists as a vaccine for Alzheimer’s disease.

During his stay at the deepest point not only of the world’s ocean, but of the entire Earth, James Cameron encountered neither terrifying monsters, nor representatives of extinct animal species, nor alien bases, not to mention any incredible wonders. The sensation that he was here all alone was a real shock. The ocean floor seemed deserted and, as the director himself said, “lunar… lonely.” The feeling of complete isolation from all humanity was such that it is impossible to put into words. However, he still tried to do it in his documentary. Well, the fact that the Mariana Trench is silent and shocking with its desolation is probably not surprising. After all, it just holds sacred the secret of origin of all life on Earth …

Mariana Trench

Mariana Trench

The Mariana Trench (or Marianas Trench) is the deepest place on the Earth’s surface. It is located on the western edge of the Pacific Ocean, 200 kilometers east of the Mariana Trench.

Paradoxically, but about the mysteries of the cosmos or the mountain tops mankind knows much more than the ocean depths. And one of the most mysterious and unexplored places of our planet is just the Mariana Trench. So what do we know about it?

The bottom of the world

Scheme of the Mariana Trench

In 1875, the crew of the British corvette Challenger discovered a place in the Pacific Ocean where there was no bottom. Kilometer after kilometer the rope of the boat went overboard, but there was no bottom! It was only at a depth of 8,184 meters that the lowering of the rope stopped. Thus was discovered the deepest underwater passage on the Earth. It was named the Mariana Trench, after the nearby islands. Its shape (crescent-shaped) and location of the deepest part was determined and named the Challenger Deep. It is located 340 km south of the island of Guam and has coordinates 11 ° 22′ N, 142 ° 35′ E.

The “Fourth Pole”, the “womb of Gaia”, the “bottom of the world” has since been called this deep-sea depression. Oceanographers have long been trying to find out its true depth. Studies of different years gave different values. The fact is that at such a colossal depth the density of water increases as you get closer to the bottom, so the properties of the sound from the sonar in it also change. Using barometers and thermometers at different levels along with echo sounders, in 2011 the depth in the Challenger Chasm was determined to be 10,994 ± 40 meters. That’s the height of Mount Everest plus another two kilometers on top.

The bottom of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean

The pressure at the bottom of the underwater crevasse is almost 1100 atmospheres, or 108.6 MPa. Most deep submersibles are designed for a maximum depth of 6,000 to 7,000 meters. Since the discovery of the deepest canyon, only four times have its bottom been successfully reached.

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In 1960, the world’s first deep-water bathyscaphe Trieste descended to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in the Challenger Deep with two passengers aboard: US Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh and Swiss oceanographer Jacques Picard.

Northern Mariana Trench surface

Their observations led to an important conclusion about the presence of life at the bottom of the canyon. The discovery of the rising water current was also of great ecological importance: based on it, the nuclear powers refused to bury radioactive waste at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

In the 1990s, the Japanese unmanned probe Kaiko explored the trench, bringing samples of silt from the bottom that revealed bacteria, worms, shrimp, and pictures of a previously unknown world.

Nereus robot

In 2009, the American robot Nereus conquered the abyss and brought up samples of silt, minerals, deep-sea fauna and photos of inhabitants of unknown depths.

In 2012, James Cameron – the author of “Titanic”, “Terminator” and “Avatar” – dived into the abyss alone. He spent 6 hours at the bottom, gathering samples of soil, minerals, fauna, as well as taking photographs and 3D video footage. Based on this material, the film “Challenge the Abyss” was created.

Amazing discoveries

Daikoku volcano

In the trench at a depth of about 4 kilometers is an active volcano, Daikoku, which spews liquid sulfur that boils at 187° C in a small depression. The only lake of liquid sulfur was discovered only on Jupiter’s satellite, Io.

Black smokers

Two kilometers from the surface, “black smokers” – sources of geothermal water with hydrogen sulfide and other substances that turn into black sulfides when in contact with cold water. The movement of sulfide water resembles puffs of black smoke. The temperature of the water at the point of discharge reaches 450° C.

White smokers at the bottom of the Trench

In the north of the canyon are “white smokers” – geysers spewing liquid carbon dioxide at 70-80° C. Scientists suggest that it is in such geothermal “cauldrons” that we should look for the origins of life on Earth. Hot springs “warm up” the icy waters, supporting life in the abyss – the temperature at the bottom of the Mariana Trench is between 1-3° C.

Life beyond.

Fish at the bottom of the Mariana Trench

It would seem that in an environment of total darkness, silence, icy cold, and unbearable pressure, life in the trench is simply unthinkable. But studies of the pit prove just the opposite: there are living creatures almost 11 kilometers under the water!

An inhabitant of the trough in the Pacific Ocean

The bottom of the trench is covered with a thick layer of mucus from organic sediments that have been descending from the upper layers of the ocean for hundreds of thousands of years. The mucus provides an excellent breeding ground for barrophilic bacteria, which form the basis of the nutrition of protozoa and multicellular organisms. The bacteria, in turn, become food for more complex organisms.

Scary fish

The underwater canyon ecosystem is truly unique. Living creatures have managed to adapt to an aggressive, normally destructive environment, with high pressure, lack of light, little oxygen and high concentrations of toxic substances. Living under such intolerable conditions has given many inhabitants of the abyss an intimidating and unattractive appearance.

Clam shark

Deep-sea fish have incredible-sized jaws studded with sharp, long teeth. The high pressure has made their bodies small (from 2 to 30 cm). However, there are also large specimens, such as the amoeba xenophyophora, which reaches 10 cm in diameter. Cloak shark and house shark (goblin) living at a depth of 2000 meters, in general, reach 5-6 meters in length.

Transparent fish

At different depths there are representatives of different species of living organisms. The deeper the abyss dwellers, the better they have developed visual organs, allowing in total darkness to catch the slightest glow of light on the body of prey. Some individuals are capable of producing directional light themselves. Other creatures and even without the organs of vision, they are replaced by the organs of touch and radar. With increasing depth underwater residents are increasingly losing their coloring, the bodies of many of them are almost transparent.

Rare fish

On the slopes, where the “black smokers” are, live mollusks that have learned to neutralize sulfides and hydrogen sulfide that are deadly to them. And what remains a mystery to scientists is that they somehow miraculously manage to keep their mineral shell intact under the enormous pressure at the bottom. Other inhabitants of the Mariana Trench show similar abilities. A study of fauna samples showed many times higher levels of radiation and toxic substances.

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Living creatures at the bottom of the Mariana Trench

Unfortunately, the deep-sea creatures die due to pressure changes whenever they are brought to the surface. Only thanks to modern deep-sea submersibles is it now possible to study the inhabitants of the depression in their natural environment. Already representatives of fauna not known to science have been identified.

Secrets and mysteries of the “womb of Gaia

Prehistoric animal tooth

The mysterious abyss, like any unknown phenomenon, is shrouded in a mass of mysteries and riddles. What is it hiding in its depths? Japanese scientists claimed that while feeding goblin sharks they saw a shark 25 meters long devouring goblins. Only the megalodon shark, which became extinct almost 2 million years ago, could be such a monster! Proof of this is the discovery of megadon teeth in the vicinity of the Mariana Trench, which are only 11 thousand years old. It can be assumed that there are still specimens of these monsters in the depths of the trench.

There are many stories about the corpses of giant monsters being washed ashore. During the descent into the abyss of the German bathyscaphe Heifisch, the dive stopped 7 km from the surface. To understand the reason, the capsule passengers turned on the lights and were horrified: their bathyscaphe, like a nut, was trying to chew up some prehistoric lizard! Only a pulse of electric current on the outer shell succeeded in frightening the monster away.

Deep sea monsters

On another occasion, during a dive of an American submersible, the rattle of metal could be heard from under the water. The descent was stopped. During examination of the recovered equipment it was found that the metal cable of titanium alloy was half sawn (or chewed) and the beams of the submersible bent.

In 2012, the video camera of the unmanned vehicle “Titan” from a depth of 10 kilometers passed a picture of objects made of metal, presumably UFOs. Soon communication with the apparatus was cut off.

Diving to the bottom of the hollow

Unfortunately, there is no documentary evidence of these interesting facts, they are all based only on stories of eyewitnesses. Each story has its fans and skeptics, its arguments “for” and “against”.

James Cameron

Before the risky dive into the Hollow, James Cameron said that he wanted to see with his own eyes at least part of the mysteries of the Mariana Trench, about which there are so many rumors and legends. But he didn’t see anything beyond what he knew.

So what do we know?

Diving apparatus to the depths

To understand how the Mariana Trench was formed, we should remember that such gaps (trenches) are usually formed at the edges of the oceans under the action of moving lithospheric plates. The oceanic plates, being older and heavier, “crawl up” under the continental plates, forming deep gaps at the joints. The deepest is the junction of the Pacific and Philippine tectonic plates near the Mariana Islands (the Mariana Trench). The Pacific plate is moving at a rate of 3 to 4 centimeters a year, resulting in increased volcanic activity along both edges of the plate.

Mariana Trench topography

Along the entire length of this deepest trough, four so-called bridges, transverse mountain ranges, have been found. The ridges were presumably formed by lithospheric movement and volcanic activity.

Exploring the Mariana Trench

The canyon is V-shaped across, widening strongly at the top and narrowing at the bottom. The average width of the canyon in its upper part is 69 kilometers, in its widest part up to 80 kilometers. The average width of the bottom between the walls is 5 km. The slope of the walls is almost steep and is only 7-8°. The trench extends from north to south for 2,500 kilometers. The trough has an average depth of about 10,000 meters.

Only three people to date have been to the very bottom of the Mariana Trench. In 2018, another manned dive to the “bottom of the world” at its deepest part is planned. This time, the famous Russian traveler Fyodor Konyukhov and polar explorer Artur Chilingarov will try to conquer the hollow and find out what it hides in its depths. Currently a deep-sea bathyscaphe is being constructed and a research program is being worked out.

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