In the Mariana Trench there is a dark place, the deepest place on the Planet. Only two men have descended into the abyss, unlocking all its mysteries.
With a depth of 10,944 meters, the Challenger Abyss is surely the deepest point on Earth. Thanks to measurements taken in 2010 by the United States Center for Coastal & Ocean Mapping, we now know exactly the vertical extent of the place, located in the famous Mariana Trench, an oceanic depression in the northwest of the Pacific Ocean, exactly east of the islands from which it takes its name.
An obscure place, where time seems to stand still, and that only two people have dared to challenge. Men of curiosity and courage, and that, to give you a yardstick of comparison, it is as if they had managed to climb a hypothetical Mount Everest stuck in the depths of the sea, covered for over a kilometer by water.
10.000 meters under the seas
The first depth measurements of the Challenger abyss date back to 1875, when the British survey ship HMS Challenger - hence the name of the abyss - went to detect a maximum depth of 8,184 meters. Technological progress did the rest, with several other increasingly accurate expeditions, up to the most recent one dated 2010.
In spite of increasingly advanced measuring instruments, to "know" the only two people who were able to physically descend into the Challenger abyss we have to go back more than 60 years. In 1960, researcher Jaques Piccard and Air Force Lieutenant Don Walsh succeeded in the endeavor aboard a U.S. Navy submarine, christened Trieste.
The extraordinary - and frightening - depth of the Mariana Trench is due to its very location, which places it at the edge of a converging plate. Right at this point, the two plates of oceanic lithosphere collide with each other, generating a violent point of collision. However, it has a very personal balance, almost as if it were another planet. When they collide with each other, one of them descends deep into the mantle, creating an underwater depression to be explored, known as the oceanic trench. Only Jaques Piccard and Don Walsh know its true nature, observed with their own eyes and living testimony to the deepest and most likely inhospitable spot on planet Earth.
Should you venture into the depths of Challenger Abyss, you will find a desert floor dotted with underwater volcanoes, and populated by various species of single-celled algae and creatures from a bygone era that have found their ideal habitat here. Many of these cannot be spotted anywhere else in the world, such as the transparent eel or the gorgon star.