Ex-US navy commander reaches the bottom of South Pacific Ocean

Ex-US navy commander Victor Vescovo becomes the first person to reach the bottom of all four of the world’s deepest ocean trenches, plunging 32,818ft below the surface

  • Vescovo reached the bottom of the Kermadec Trench in the South Pacific Ocean
  • Aboard a sub Vescovo reached a maximum depth of 32,818 feet 10,003 metres 
  • The US explorer has already reached the deepest point on Earth a dozen times

Ex-US navy commander Victor Vescovo has become the first person to reach the bottom of all four of the world’s deepest ocean trenches.

Vescovo reached the bottom of the Kermadec Trench in the South Pacific Ocean at the weekend in the submersible DSV Limiting Factor – a two-person submersible built by Florida-based company Triton Submarines. 

In doing so, the 55-year-old explorer completed a personal goal of diving to the four deepest known areas on Earth. 

Following the nine-hour expedition, Vescovo and a small team reached a maximum depth of 32,818 feet (10,003 metres) at the bottom of Kermadec Trench.

Limiting Factor’s cameras captured footage of ‘one of the deepest jellyfish ever seen on film’ and a ‘brilliant gold’ bacterial mat living off the minerals and gases in the rocks, he said.

Vescovo (left) and a small team reached a maximum depth of 32,818 feet (10,003 metres) at the bottom of Kermadec Trench aboard Limiting Factor – a two-person submersible built by Triton Submarines

The Kermadec Trench just off the coast of New Zealand is the world’s fourth-deepest trench and also one of the coldest due to inflow from Antarctica


1. Challenger Deep, Mariana Trench, Pacific Ocean: 35,843 feet (10,925 metres)

2. Horizon Deep, Tonga Trench, Pacific Ocean: 35,488 feet (10,817 metres)

3. Emden Deep, Philippine Trench, Philippine Sea, NW Pacific: 32,956 feet (10,045 metres)

4. Scholl Deep, Kermadec Trench, Pacific Ocean: 32,818 feet (10,003 metres)

Source: British Geological Survey  

The jellyfish appears to be a ‘comb jelly’ (Ctenophora) and is somehow surviving over 7 tons per square inch of pressure. 

On Twitter, when asked how the jellyfish can possibly live under such pressure, Vescovo said: ‘They would probably say the same about us: “How can humans live in an environment with so little pressure?” Every creature adapts to their environment. Evolution is a power thing.’ 

Footage also shows a jagged seafloor lit up by Limiting Factor’s lights. The environment is characterised by perpetual darkness, intense pressures and freezing temperatures.  

‘Until this expedition no one knew what the Kermadec Trench looked like and how deep it was,’ Vescovo has told The Times, speaking from the LF’s mothership, DSSV Pressure Drop. 

‘If you consider the conditions – more than seven tons of pressure per square inch and just about freezing temperatures and salt water – it’s remarkable that there is life in these deep trenches.’

Vescovo has now reached the four deepest known points on Earth. He’s visited Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench – the deepest point on Earth at 35,843 feet (10,925 metres) – a dozen times.  

In June 2019, he reached the bottom of the Horizon Deep in the Tonga Trench in the Pacific Ocean, at 35,488 feet (10,817 metres). 

Vescovo and Filipino oceanographer Deo Florence Onda performed the first descent to Emden Deep in the Philippine Trench (the third deepest point on Earth, 32,956 feet or 10,045 metres) in March this year.

Some sources put Kuril-Kamchatka Trench in the northwest Pacific as the fourth-deepest point on Earth and Kermadec Trench as the fifth-deepest.

However, Dr Heather Stewart, a marine geoscientist at the British Geological Survey, told MailOnline that a German team of surveyors failed to find any depths at Kuril-Kamchatka over 31167 feet (9,500 metres). 

‘The Germans went there, surveyed using their deep-water multibeam and published in 2016 that they failed to find any depths over 9,500 metres, so, the Kermadec Trench is the fourth deepest place on Earth,’ she said. 

Vescovo has now reached the four deepest known points on Earth. He’s visited Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench – the deepest point on Earth at 35,843 feet (10,925 metres) – a dozen times

The bottom of Kermadec Trench (pictured) has a ‘rather chaotic geology and marine life’, Vescovo said


Data from the Five Deeps Expedition (FDE) led by Victor Vescovo has confirmed the deepest points of the five oceans.  

The deepest point of the Indian Ocean is at 7,187 metres, within the Java Trench, just off the coast of Indonesia, the data reveals, while the deepest point of the Southern Ocean has a depth of 7,432 metres, within the South Sandwich Trench. 

Prior to FDE, the deepest parts of some oceans were relatively well known, such as lowest point on Earth – the Challenger Deep, inside the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean. 

At a whopping 10,924 metre (6.8-miles), the Challenger Deep still holds the record for the deepest point on Earth, the expeditions confirmed. 

Read more: Deepest points of the world’s oceans revealed 

Vescovo paid for the design and construction of Limiting Factor, the only submersible in the world capable of diving to the deepest ocean depth. 

The privately funded exploration vehicle, is specialised for the hadal zone of the deep ocean, which exists at in V-shaped depressions at up to 36,000 feet. 

At such depths only specialised microorganisms can survive. Water pressure at the deepest points on Earth is so intense that it would dissolve the bones of land-based animals, according to Vescovo.

In particular, the bottom of Kermadec Trench has a ‘rather chaotic geology and marine life’, Vescovo said. 

‘When people think about life on other planets, they may think it will look like humans or animals that we know of,’ he told the Times. 

‘What’s more likely because of the extreme conditions on other planets is that it will look more like what we find in the deep ocean on Earth – animals more adapted to the extreme environment,’ Vescovo said.  

The nine-hour expedition was ‘not all fun and smooth sailing, however – Vescovo faced ‘pretty rough weather’, days of poor sleep and a heavily rocking Pressure Drop en route to the Kermadec Trench. 

Vescovo is known for leading the Five Deeps Expedition (FDE), a successful mission to travel to the deepest point in each of the world’s five major oceans – Atlantic, Southern, Indian, Pacific and Arctic – over the course of 10 months from 2018 to 2019.  

The American former intelligence officer turned millionaire financier who was aboard Limiting Factor for all five missions.  

Triton DSV Limiting Factor can dive to depths of 36,000 feet and fits two passengers plus a pilot

The hadal zone of the ocean – named after Hades, the ancient Greek god of the dead – exists around 20,000 to 36,000 feet below the ocean surface

In May 2019, Victor Vescovo became the fourth person in history to reach Challenger Deep as part of the expedition.  

Over the course of seven days, Vescovo made fives dives in the Mariana Trench. 

As well as three new species of marine life, and the deepest piece of recovered mantle rock, Vescovo and his team found a plastic bag and a candy wrapper – a stark reminder of the scale of plastic pollution.  


Plastic pollution is a scourge that is ravaging the surface of our planet. Now, the polluting polymer is sinking down to the bottom of the ocean. 

The deepest part of the ocean is found in the Mariana Trench, located in the western Pacific Ocean, to the east of the Mariana Islands. It stretches down nearly 36,100 feet (11,000 metres) below the surface.

One plastic bag was found 35,754 feet (10,898 metres) below the surface in this region, the deepest known piece of human-made pollution in the world. This single-use piece of plastic was found deeper than 33 Eiffel towers, laid tip to base, would reach.

Whilst the plastic pollution is rapidly sinking, it is also spreading further into the middle of the oceans. A piece of plastic was found over 620 miles (1,000 km) from the nearest coast – that’s further than the length of France.

The Global Oceanographic Data Center (Godac) of the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (Jamstec) launched for public use in March 2017. 

In this database, there is the data from 5,010 different dives. From all of these different dives, 3,425 man-made debris items were counted. 

More than 33 per cent of the debris was macro-plastic followed by metal (26 per cent), rubber (1.8 per cent), fishing gear (1.7 per cent), glass (1.4 per cent), cloth/paper/lumber (1.3 per cent), and ‘other’ anthropogenic items (35 per cent).

It was also discovered that of all the waste found, 89 per cent of it was designed for single-use purposes. This is defined as plastic bags, bottles and packages. The deeper the study looked, the greater the amount of plastic they found. 

Of all man-made items found deeper than 20,000 feet (6,000 metres), the ratios increased to 52 per cent for macro-plastic and 92 per cent for single-use plastic.

The direct damage this caused to the ecosystem and environment is clear to see as deep-sea organisms were observed in the 17 per cent of plastic debris images taken by the study.

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