Growing concerns about plastic pollution in oceans
Decades of plastic use worldwide leading to unprecedented levels of trash being dumped into the water; Jonathan Hunt reports from Seal Beach, California.
On the deepest dive ever executed into the Mariana Trench, an American investor-turned-explorer discovered what appeared to be plastic bag and other litter nearly seven miles below the surface of the Pacific Ocean.
Victor Vescovo, a retired naval officer from Texas, broke the record for the deepest dive into a part of the Mariana Trench known as Challenger Deep, the deepest known point in the Earth’s seabed. His dive went 52 feet lower than a 1960 dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench completed by U.S. Navy lieutenant Don Walsh and Swiss engineer Jacques Piccard in a vessel called the bathyscaphe Trieste. Movie director James Cameron made the descent in 2012 but failed to beat out the record.
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Vescovo descended nearly 35,849 feet down where he found “manmade material” on the ocean’s floor that he is “working to confirm is plastic,” Stephanie Fitzherbert, a spokeswoman for his expedition, told The Guardian. Vescovo is a Dallas-based co-founder of Insight Equity Holdings, a private equity fund, who is financing the Five Deeps Expedition as an attempt to explore the deepest points in each of the world’s five oceans, BBC News reported.
“It was very disappointing to see obvious human contamination of the deepest point in the ocean,” Vescovo told Reuters. “It’s not a big garbage collection pool, even though it’s treated as such.”
As a part of the Five Deeps expedition, Vescovo made several dives into the Mariana Trench over the past week in his submarine, DSV Limiting Factor, to collect biological and rock samples, The Guardian reported. Scientists will test the biological samples for microplastics.
The United Nations estimates 100 million tons of plastic waste already occupies the world’s oceans and large volumes of microplastic have been discovered in the intestinal tracts of deep-dwelling ocean mammals, UK’s Telegraph newspaper reported.
The team claims to have discovered four new species of prawn-like crustaceans called amphipods, observed a creature called a spoon worm more than 22,000 feet down and a pink snailfish at more than 26,000 feet down, BBC reported. Over the past six months, Vescovo’s expedition conducted dives in the Puerto Rico Trench in the Atlantic Ocean, the South Sandwich Trench in the Southern Ocean and the Java Trench in Indian Ocean.
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His final mission will be to descend the Molloy Deep in the Arctic Ocean in August 2019. Atlantic Productions is following the Five Deeps expedition for a documentary for the Discovery Channel.