When people envision "the final frontier" most think of traveling through space the way the
Starship Enterprise did for many years on Star Trek. But there are virtually unexplored frontiers
to be had without leaving Earth. The Marianas Trench in the western Pacific Ocean provides
one of the most amazing and unique examples.
The trench is about 1,580 miles long with an average width of 43 miles. It is estimated to run
almost seven miles deep – placing it as the deepest part of the ocean. This long and lean drop
in the Ocean's floor has a water pressure that runs over 1000 times what we experience at sea
Only two other people have dared to explore the Trench: U.S. Navy Capt. Don Walsh, and
Swiss engineer Jacques Piccard in 1960 (no relation to Jean-Luc). The two were in the trench
for about 20 minutes, but unfortunately the sand on the Trench's floor was disturbed by their
vehicle so that they were not able to see anything.
Recently, James Cameron, the noted entrepreneur and explorer, became the third person to
explore the Trench with a solo dive in his submarine, The Challenger.
Cameron took numerous photographs, showing that the trench itself is a surprisingly intriguing
place despite the incredible water pressure levels. According to Cameron, "It was very lunar, a
very desolate place, very isolated." He also gathered samples of sediment from the bottom of
the trench, providing a source for study for marine biologists and oceanographers. Cameron's
exploration was cut short by three hours due to a hydraulic leak, but he did capture much of
the experience on 3-D film. He plans to continue to explore the Marianas Trench in the future.
The United States established the Marianas Trench, also called the Marianas Trench, as The
Marianas Trench Marine National Monument in January of 2009. This underwater monument
includes over 95,000 square miles. It is protected under the Antiquities Act of 1906, the same
law that protects our national parks, and is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Although ocean exploration receives limited funding, Cameron's visit to the Marianas Trench
may stir up more interest and dollars for the area. Talk includes opportunities for educational
projects including a visitor center and guided sea tours.
The only life James Cameron saw in the Trench were a number of one-inch sea creatures, but it
still provides an amazing new frontier for humanity. And though most of us will never have the
opportunity to explore the trench in person, we can better understand the experience thanks
to the 3-D movies of James Cameron.