First to dive the Five Deeps

Last updated: June 4, 2020 at 2:27 am

Victor Vescovo was the first human to dive to the deepest point in each of the Earth’s oceans using the deep submergence vehicle (DSV) Limiting Factor and seafloor landers. The mission of the Five Deeps Expedition was to precisely map and explore the deepest locations of all five of the world’s oceans. Vescovo’s extraordinary quest began on December 21, 2018, when he dived to the deepest point in the Atlantic Ocean, the Brownson Deep (8,376 m / 27,480 ft | Puerto Rico Trench).

The next leg of his expedition took him to the Southern Ocean where dived to 7,433.6 m (24,388 ft) in the South Sandwich Trench on February 4, 2019.

“I am so proud of the entire team for working in very difficult, near-zero (Celsius) temperatures to launch and recover the Limiting Factor. It was an extremely challenging dive technically, but we were lucky with the weather and were able to visit the bottom of the Southern Ocean for the very first time.” — Victor Vescovo

On April 16, 2019, Vescovo became the first person to reach the deepest point in the Indian Ocean, the Sunda Trench (7,192 m / 23,596 ft). Having descended to the bottom of the trench, the team managed to capture footage from the sub and landers of what are believed to be entirely new species, yet unseen by humans. From the sub, a new species of hadal snailfish was observed amongst many other bottom dwelling organisms, and the landers observed an extraordinary gelatinous animal believed to be a stalked ascidian, otherwise known as a sea squirt–which does not resemble anything seen before.

“Amongst many other rare and unique observations, the stalked Ascidean was a really significant moment. It is not often we see something that is so extraordinary that it leaves us speechless. At this point we are not entirely sure what species it was, but we will find out in due course.” — Dr. Alan Jamieson, Chief Scientist of the Five Deeps Expedition

“Among other things, the Five Deeps Expedition has finally settled the debate about where the deepest point in the Indian Ocean is. Our Kongsberg EM124 multibeam sonar – the most advanced sonar currently mounted on a civilian vessel – provided detailed maps of the Diamantina Fracture Zone sea floor off the coast of Australia, as well as the deepest parts of the Java Trench. Together with physical visitation from unmanned landers and the DSV Limiting Factor submersible, we believe we have built the most precise maps possible of the deepest places in the Indian Ocean. The deepest point is in the central part of the Java Trench – not the east as was widely assumed – and that’s exactly where we dove.” — Victor Vescovo

Vescovo then set course for the Mariana Trench where he set the world record for the deepest submersible dive and the deepest solo submersible dive (10,925 m / 35,843 ft) by reaching the bottom of the Challenger Deep on April 28, 2019. Three more dives to the seafloor were made over the next four days, followed by the first-ever dives to the second deepest point on the planet, the Horizon Deep (10,823 m / 35,509 ft | Tonga Trench), and to the third deepest point on the planet, the Sirena Deep (10,714 m / 35,151 ft) | Mariana Trench).

“It is almost indescribable how excited all of us are about achieving what we just did. This submarine and its mother ship, along with its extraordinarily talented expedition team, took marine technology to an unprecedented new level by diving—rapidly and repeatedly—into the deepest, harshest area of the ocean. We feel like we have just created, validated, and opened a powerful door to discover and visit any place, any time, in the ocean—which is 90% unexplored.” — Victor Vescovo

Vescovo completed the Five Deeps Expedition by becoming the first person to reach the deepest point in the Arctic Ocean, the Molloy Deep (5,550 m / 18,210 ft). Three successful dives took place over the course of three days at times only 64-80 km (40-50 miles) from moving pack ice. Just prior to diving the Arctic Ocean, Vescovo made the first solo dive to the RMS Titanic which also resulted in the first 4K video of the famed shipwreck.

Over the course of the Five Deeps Expedition, from December 2018 through September 2019, the expedition team covered a total distance of 75,639 km (47,000 miles), completed 39 deep dives (including several world records), discovered over 30 new nameable underwater features, and mapped over 300,000 sq. km (115,831 sq. miles) of seafloor with a multi-beam system (Kongsberg EM124), which represents an area the size of Italy.

The Puerto Rico Trench had been previously explored to approximately 8,300 m (27,231 ft) by the French submersible Archimède in 1964, but it did not reach the deepest point.
Subsequent to the Five Deeps Expedition, Vescovo dived to the deepest in the Mediterranean Sea (5,109 m /16,762 ft | Calypso Deep) in February 2020, which was also the deepest dive by a head of state.

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