In the waters of the Western Pacific, a sea of blue surrounded oceanographer Dawn Wright, who was also a little blue. Her mother died last December and wouldn’t be there to watch Wright face the challenge of reaching the deepest place on Earth.
“She wished she could live to see this, but she’s watching it from the sky,” Wright told CBS Sunday Morning correspondent Lee Cowan.
Wright, an expert in marine geology and geography at the Environmental Systems Research Institute, is the first person of any gender of African descent to go to the Challenger Deep – the deepest known point of the Earth’s seafloor.
Wright’s love of the ocean began at his home in Maui, Hawaii. She said she knew she wanted to be an oceanographer at age 8.
“It was partially powered by the Apollo 11 mission,” said Wright, nicknamed the Deep-Sea Dawn. “If those men could land on the moon, I thought, ‘Well, why can’t I go in the opposite direction and explore the oceans?'”
But in the 1970s and 1980s, not many oceanographers were women — and fewer were black.
“I spent several years at sea as a marine technician. And there were men on the ship I was on who didn’t believe women should be there… That’s history, an ancient history. a problem,” she said.
But all of that was overshadowed by her arrival at an empty place of judgment and prejudice – a journey that took her four times deeper than before. At the bottom, she experienced over 100,000 tons of pressure on the outside of her submersible.
Challenger Deep is 11 kilometers below the surface and more than six times deeper than the Grand Canyon. It’s nearly triple the depth of the Titanic – and has only been seen by a few.
The reason why? It’s not going down that’s hard, but getting back up without being crushed. Only one manned vehicle in the world can do it: Limiting Factor, which is the brainchild of Texas adventurer and explorer Victor Vescovo. He financed the design and construction of the two-person submersible.
“If it can work here, it can work anywhere under the sea,” said Vescovo, who was with Wright on the deep-sea journey.
Ocean trenches are largely a watery black hole in terms of research, but they have a lot to tell us — such as Earth’s reaction to climate change and how to better predict earthquakes and tsunamis.
Wright’s task was to bring back the first high-resolution mapping of the Challenger Deep. Currently, less than a quarter of the global seafloor is mapped “in sufficient detail,” she said. Last year, the United Nations committed to changing that and set a goal of having at least 80% of the seafloor mapped by 2030.
But one of the best tools for doing this is side-scan sonar, and typically the instruments can’t survive the harsh environment.
This time, however, the first side-scan sonar worked.
After 10 hours under the sunlight land, Wright emerged and returned to the launch deck of his research vessel, where the real work of analyzing his research had just begun.
Source : www.cbsnews.com