Challenger Deep of the Mariana Trench

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Challenger Deep of the Mariana Trench

Post by weasel666 on Tue 04 Mar 2014, 17:25

The Challenger Deep is the deepest known point in the Earth's seabed hydrosphere, with a depth of 10,898 to 10,916 m (35,755 to 35,814 ft) by direct measurement from submersibles, and slightly more by sonar bathymetry (see below). It is in the Pacific Ocean, at the southern end of the Mariana Trench near the Mariana Islands group. The Challenger Deep is a relatively small slot-shaped depression in the bottom of a considerably larger crescent-shaped oceanic trench, which itself is an unusually deep feature in the ocean floor. Its bottom is about 11 km (7 mi) long and 1.6 km (1 mi) wide, with gently sloping sides. The closest land to the Challenger Deep is Fais Island (one of the outer islands of Yap), 287 km (178 mi) southwest, and Guam, 304 km (189 mi) to the northeast. It is located in the ocean territory of the Federated States of Micronesia, 1 mi (1.6 km) from its border with ocean territory associated with Guam.

The depression is named after the British Royal Navy survey ship HMS Challenger, whose expedition of 1872–1876 made the first recordings of its depth. According to the August 2011 version of the GEBCO Gazetteer of Undersea Feature Names, the location and depth of the Challenger Deep are 11°22.4′N 142°35.5′E and 10,920 m (35,827 ft) ±10 m (33 ft).

June 2009 sonar mapping of the Challenger Deep by the Simrad EM120 (sonar multibeam bathymetry system for 300–11,000 m deep water mapping) aboard the RV Kilo Moana indicated a depth of 10,971 metres (35,994 ft). The sonar system uses phase and amplitude bottom detection, with a precision of better than 0.2% of water depth; this is an error of about 22 metres (72 ft) at this depth. Further soundings made by the US Center for Coastal & Ocean Mapping in October 2010 are in agreement with this figure, placing the deepest part of the Challenger Deep at 10,994 m (36,070 ft), with an estimated vertical uncertainty of ±40 m (131 ft).

Only four descents have ever been achieved. The first descent by any vehicle was by the manned bathyscaphe Trieste in 1960. This was followed by the unmanned ROVs Kaikō in 1995 and Nereus in 2009. In March 2012 a manned solo descent was made by the deep-submergence vehicle Deepsea Challenger. These expeditions measured very similar depths of 10,898 to 10,916 metres (35,755 to 35,814 ft).

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