Shannon Switzer is an award-winning photographer, published
writer, and National Geographic Young Explorer whose work focuses on
- How far down does the ocean go?
- Can living things thrive in the deepest parts of the ocean?
- If so, what do they look like and how do they survive?
questions above have captured people’s imagination for centuries. Some
of them were at least partially answered during legendary ocean
expeditions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. One such voyage,
completed by the HMS Challenger during the 1870s, is considered by many
to be the first systematic deep-sea recognizance mission. This
circumnavigation of more than 68,000 nautical miles included the
collection of samples of organisms from oceans around the world, which
proved that the deep sea indeed had its own set of unique flora and
fauna. Prior to this expedition, many people thought that life could not
exist in the deepest parts of the ocean.
At left: The bathyscaphe Trieste is hoisted out of the water. In 1960, Trieste descended to the Challenger Deep, more than 10,915m (35,810 ft) below the ocean’s surface. As of 2010, it remained the only manned vehicle to ever dive that deep. Photo courtesy U.S. Navy Electronics Laboratory, San Diego.