“Challenger Deep — and back”

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6 June 2020, a day for the underwater exploration history books. Dr. Kathryn Sullivan performed the Challenger Deep dive in Guam located in the Western Pacific Ocean. Challenger Deep is the lowest known location on the planet. Dr. Sullivan is now the first woman to descend the seven miles (11 kilometres) to the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

Kathryn Dwyer Sullivan (born 3 October 1951) is an American geologist and an ex-astronaut of NASA. A crew member on three Space Shuttle flights, on 11 October 1984 she became the first American woman to walk in space.

Kathryn earned a Bachelor of Science in Earth Sciences from the University of California , Santa Cruz in 1973, and a Ph.D. in Geology from the University of Dalhousie, Nova Scotia in 1978. While at Dalhousie, she took part in several oceanographic expeditions that explored the Atlantic and Pacific ocean floors. Her thesis was “The structure and evolution of the Newfoundland Basin, offshore eastern Canada”. Sullivan joined the US Naval Reserve in 1988, as an officer of oceanography, retiring in 2006 with the rank of captain. She had been stationed in Guam.

Mariana Trench
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

The Challenger Deep is the deepest known point in the Earth’s seabed hydrosphere (the oceans), with a depth of 10.902 to 10.929 m (35.768 to 35.856 ft) through direct measurement of deep-diving submersibles, remotely operated vehicles and benthic landers and (sometimes) slightly more by sonar bathymetry. This ocean depression is named after the British Royal Navy survey ship HMS Challenger, whose 1872–76 expedition made its first depth recordings. The high water pressure at this depth makes exploratory craft hard to design and operate. In January 1960, the manned bathyscaphe Trieste took the first descent by any vehicle; unmanned visits followed in 1996, 1998 and 2009. In March 2012, film director James Cameron made a manned solo descent in the deep-submergence vehicle Deepsea Challenger. Between 28 April and 4 May 2019, four manned dives to the bottom of Challenger Deep were completed by DSV Limiting Factor.

Sullivan left NASA in 1993. She flew on three space shuttle missions and logged 532 hours in space. Sullivan was confirmed on 4 May 2011 with the unanimous consent of the United States to the US Senate and was also appointed by President Obama as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Deputy Administrator of Environmental Observation and Prediction.

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About Author

Kathy is the owner of Kirk Scuba Gear, a passionate Scuba Diver, Ocean Advocate and Managing Editor of The Scuba News Canada

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