Mankind has been studying space and the oceans for centuries, and in that time we’ve learnt more about what’s outside our planet than what’s at the deepest depths. On 23 January 1960, US Navy Captain Don Walsh, and Swiss engineer Jacques Piccard, became the first people to descend 11km (seven miles) to full ocean depth, and to mark the anniversary of that descent marine research charity Nekton has produced 360-degree film The Journey to the Deep, with Walsh narrating.
That first descent into the Pacific Ocean was aboard the Swiss-built US Navy bathyscaphe, Trieste and dubbed ‘Project Nekton’. Despite that voyage taking place 57 years ago, and with all the advancements in technology made, their record to a depth of 10,911m (35,797ft) remains unbroken to this day.
Nekton launched its first Mission in the summer (2016) to investigate the state of the deep ocean. The scientific findings will be released this autumn as part of the XL Catlin Deep Ocean Survey, a pioneering multi-disciplinary marine research programme investigating physical, chemical and biological indicators to assess the function, health and resilience of the deep ocean.
Scientists from a dozen marine research institutes joined the forty-day mission, based aboard two oceanographic research ships. Their research focused on three locations: Bermuda, Nova Scotia, and the High Seas (NW Atlantic & Sargasso Sea). The charity is now undertaking a series of missions to explore the state of the Bathyal Zone, the ocean depth between 200 and 2000m.
Mission Director Oliver Steeds said in a statement: “Viewers can experience the descent into the darkest depths of the ocean, and encounter the inhabitants and hundreds of facts about the largest, yet also the least known environment on our planet. Look out for hammerhead sharks, blue whales, oil rigs, sperm whales, microplastics and the terrifying fangtooth fish.”
“After 1960, we turned our eyes towards outer space and Project Nekton was largely forgotten. I hope this film encourages people to begin to turn their gaze downwards. Today the deep ocean remains the last, great, unknown frontier on our planet. As we consider colonising Mars, we must remember that less than 5% of the ocean has been explored,” said Walsh.
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