Challenger Deep

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The Challenger Deep is the deepest surveyed point in the oceans, with a depth of 10,911 m (35,797 ft). It is located at the southern end of the Mariana Trench near the Mariana Islands group. The Challenger Deep is a relatively small slot-shaped depression in the bottom of a considerably larger crescent-shaped trench, which itself is an unusually deep feature in the ocean floor. The closest land to the Challenger Deep is Fais Island (one of the outer islands of Yap), 289 km (180 mi) southwest, and Guam, 306 km (190 mi) to the northeast. The depression is named after the British Royal Navy survey ship HMS Challenger, whose expedition of 1872–76 made the first recordings of its depth.

The most recent (1 June 2009) sonar mapping of the Challenger Deep by the Simrad EM120 sonar multibeam bathymetry system for 300–11,000 m deep water mapping aboard the RV Kilo Moana, has indicated a spot with a depth of 10,971 m (35,994 ft) (6.82 miles). The sonar system uses phase and amplitude bottom detection, with an accuracy of better than 0.2% of water depth (this is an error of about 22 meters at this depth).[1][2]

Only three descents have ever been achieved. The first was a manned descent by Trieste in 1960. This was followed by the unmanned ROVs Kaikō in 1995 and Nereus in 2009. These expeditions have measured very similar depths of 10,902 to 10,916 meters. In January 2010, marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Trieste descent, the X Prize Foundation announced a $10 million prize for the first privately funded craft to make two repeat manned descents.[3]

Contents

History of depth mapping from the surface

  • The HMS Challenger expedition (December 1872 – May 1876) first sounded the depths now known as the Challenger Deep. This first sounding was made on 23 March 1875 at station 225.[4] The reported depth was 4,475 fathoms (26,850 ft, 8,184m), based on two separate soundings.

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