The Mariana Trench is the deepest point on the surface of the Earth. More than two miles down in the Pacific Ocean (possibly more than six miles in places), the bottome of the Mariana Trench was the last major geological feature of the planet to be reached by humans. The trench supports living creatures at great depths in one of the harshest environments in the oceans. Part of the Mariana Trench is protected as part of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.
The first evidence of the Mariana Trench was observed during the voyage of the Challenger in 1875. Subsequent expeditions discovered ever lower points in the trench between 1899 and 1995. The first manned expedition to reach the bottome of the trench took place in 1960. The only other successful manned mission was undertaken by filmmaker James Cameron in 2012.
The Mariana Trench is one of the largest undersea geological features in the world. It runs for nearly 1,600 miles roughly midway between the islands of New Guinea and Japan. The closest access point is the Mariana Islands (for whom the trench is named). The deepest known point is the Challenger Deep at the southern end, with a depth of nearly seven miles. Explorations of the trench have indicated the existence of life, including fish, shrimp and possibly sea cucumbers.
The Mariana Trench is quite possibly the most inaccessible point on the Earth. Traveling here is a major undertaking, and the vast majority of visitors only make shallow dives above the trench. Major equipment is required to make it into the trench itself, and only a handful of people have done this as of yet. Many of those who do visit do so at the Marianas Trench National Monument. Web: www.fws.gov/refuge/mariana_trench_marine_national_monument (official website).
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