December 8, 2011
Scientists Map Deepest Part Of The Ocean
The Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping (CCOM) has mapped the deepest part of the ocean in greater detail than ever before.
The scientists mapped the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific, which runs about 1,550 miles and extends down to nearly seven miles.
The deepest point measured extends deeper below sea level than the height of Mount Everest, which is the highest point on the Earth.
"We mapped the entire trench, from its northern end at Dutton Ridge, all the way to where it becomes the Yap Trench in the south," explained Dr Jim Gardner from CCOM, which is based at the University of New Hampshire.
"We used a multibeam echosounder mounted on a US Navy hydrographic ship. This instrument allows you to map a swath of soundings perpendicular to the line of travel of the ship. It's like mowing the grass. And we were able to map the trench at a 100m resolution," he told BBC News.
The scientists presented the results of the mapping at the 2011 American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting.
The U.S. State Department funded the study to try and establish how much territory it owns around the territories of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands in the western Pacific Oceans.
Geologists are also interested in the data because it gives them a better understanding of the deepest part of the ocean.
The Mariana Trench holds a giant slab of Pacific oceanic crust and is being pulled under the adjacent Philippines tectonic plate.
Four teams are about to send manned submersibles into the trench to explore it. The only two humans to have ever visited this depth was Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard in 1960.
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