The Mariana Trench Earth’s Deepest Place

March 03, 2021

Mariana Trench, also called Marianas Trench, deep-sea trench in the floor of the western North Pacific Ocean, the deepest such trench known on Earth, located mostly east as well as south of the Mariana Islands. It is part of the western Pacific system of oceanic trenches coinciding with  subduction zones—points where two adjacent tectonic plates collide, one being forced below the other. An arcing depression, the Mariana Trench stretches for more than 1,580 miles (2,540 km) with a mean width of 43 miles (69 km). The greatest depths are reached in Challenger Deep, a smaller steep-walled valley on the floor of the main trench southwest of Guam. The Mariana Trench, which is situated within the territories of the U.S. dependencies of the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam, was designated a U.S. national monument in 2009.

The Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean is so deep your bones would literally dissolve. What’s down there in its black, crushing depths?

It’s deeper than the highest mountain is tall

Everyone knows that Mount Everest is a massive challenge for mountain climbers everywhere because of its insane height and the weather conditions associated with it. But if Mount Everest were ever placed in the Mariana Trench, the peak of the mountain would still be more than one mile underwater.

Cross section of the Mariana Arc showing the Mariana Trench. The diagram was generated by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration following the 2004 Pacific Ring of Fire expedition.

When Was It Discovered?

The Mariana Trench was first pinpointed in 1875 during the undertaking of a global circumnavigation. It was found by utilizing sounding equipment on the HMS Challenger. It was named for the nearby Mariana Islands.

This undertaking – the Challenger expedition from 1872 to 1876 – was revolutionary in the field of oceanography. During that time the ship went almost 70,000 nautical miles, exploring and mapping as it traveled. During the trip, about 4,700 species were discovered.

The Challenger Deep is Deepest 

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Some points of the trench are deeper than others, with the deepest section being called the Challenger Deep. It was named for two ships that have explored its depths with sounding equipment – the HMS Challenger and the HMS Challenger II.

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.

Someone has Traveled to the Bottom

Scientist Jacques Piccard and U.S. Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh earned the distinction of being the first people to reach the Challenger Deep in a deep boat. It happened in 1960.

It’s Hot and It’s Cold

You might expect the waters of the Mariana Trench to be frigid since no sunlight can reach it. And you’d be right. The water there tends to range between 34 to 39 degrees Fahrenheit.

But what’s surprising is how hot the water can get, too. There are hydrothermal vents throughout the trench. The water that comes out of those vents would be enough to scald anyone at 700 degrees Fahrenheit – but don’t worry, anyone not in a hardy vessel would be instantaneously crushed by the tremendous pressure first.

The water that comes out also is responsible for releasing a lot of minerals that sustain the lifeforms that are located down there.

Mariana forearc: Northwest Eifuku volcano

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