While most of Earth is covered in water, the depths of our ocean can be truly astounding. One such place is the Mariana Trench. At nearly 11 kilometers (seven miles), it’s deep enough to swallow Mount Everest. It was first sounded in 1960 by US Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh and Swiss engineer Jacques Piccard aboard the bathyscaphe Trieste.
The Mariana Trench
The Mariana Trench (or simply Marianas Trench) is a crescent-shaped dent in the Pacific Ocean that sits around 1,580 miles long. It is the deepest part of any ocean because it is a subduction zone—that’s where one tectonic plate slides under another. That creates enormous pressure. But despite that incredible pressure, the trench supports a number of unique creatures, such as the xenophyophores and the deep-sea crustacean Hirondellea gigas. These animals thrive at the bottom of the Trench, which is 36,070 feet down—or three times as deep as Mount Everest is tall.
And even though 80% of the world’s ocean is unexplored, researchers believe that new species of animals are thriving in places like the Mariana Trench. Scientists are especially fascinated by a creature called the deep sea cucumber that’s a bright violet color and transparent. It survives by consuming chemicals that it gathers from the surrounding waters. It moves through the water like a graceful ballet, which is pretty impressive for a creature that lives in complete darkness and extreme pressure!
Located less than a kilometer from Darwin Island in the Galapagos Islands, this natural rock formation is famous for the dramatic pelagic gathering of marine species it draws every day. Known as “The Theatre,” the natural arch and plateau attract scalloped hammerhead sharks, manta rays, turtles and dolphins—all drawn by strong currents that eddy and swirl around the site. The iconic structure—named after English biologist Charles Darwin, who studied evolution in the Galapagos Islands during his voyage aboard the HMS Beagle in the early 1830s—is an underwater landmark that’s also a popular spot for scuba divers and photographers.
Mushi Mas Mingili Thila
A favorite amongst dive enthusiasts, Mushi Mas Mingili Thila (also known as Fish Head) is a pinnacle-style dive site and marine protected area in the northern Ari Atoll. Prior to it being declared an official marine protected area, it was a popular shark feeding spot, which means that gray reef sharks are frequently seen at this site. White tips, Napoleon wrasse, jacks and tuna are also common visitors to this site. The top of the reef starts between 5 and 8 meters of water, with a gentle slope down to 30 or more. There are plenty of healthy coral formations on this site, including gorgonians and some very large formations.
There are also a lot of sea fans and anemones on this site, as well as a wealth of black corals that makes the difference between ocean and sea . Scorpionfish, moray eels, barracudas and stingrays are all common sights here as well. The thalia’s craggy features also offer shelter to nudi branch and pineapple fish, along with many other smaller creatures.
In some parts of the world, the ocean goes much deeper than you might expect. The Mariana Trench is the deepest part of the ocean with a maximum depth of over seven miles. It is taller than Mount Everest and was once thought to be uninhabitable, but the trench has been explored by manned and unmanned submarines. Ribbon Reefs are located in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia and host many different types of marine life. The coral gardens are home to a diversity of colors, and there is plenty of macro life to be found on the sand gullies between reefs.
Dwarf Minke Whales can be seen here during the Australian winter, and there are also a number of dive sites with sharks and rays. One of the best is Steve’s Bommie, where two coral bommies rise in tandem from the seabed, encrusted with thickets of branching and bottlebrush Acroporids. Other highlights include Cod Hole, named after the resident diver-sized potato cod.