The Mariana Trench in the Western Pacific near Guam has been the focus of high-profile voyages to conquer Challenger Deep, the deepest place on Earth. This recent expedition to the Trench onboard Research Vessel Falkor targeted multiple depths and found active thriving communities of animals. The expedition set many new records, including the deepest rock samples ever collected and the discovery of new fish species at the greatest depths ever recorded.
Rather than solely focusing on the deepest point in the Mariana Trench, a concerted effort was made to gain a better understanding of the interplay between life and geologic processes across the entire hadal zone.
The findings from this research will help to answer important questions about Earth's largest and least explored habitat. New species were discovered on this expedition that will provide insight into the physiological adaptations of animals to this high-pressure environment.
The expedition also broke several records for the deepest living fish either caught or seen on video. Setting the record at 8,143 meters, (26,872 feet) was a completely unknown variety of snailfish, which stunned scientists when it was filmed several times during seafloor experiments. The white translucent fish had broad wing-like fins and an eel-like tail, and slowly glided over the bottom..
Wendy Schmidt, co-founder and vice president of Schmidt Ocean Institute, was delighted with the success of the expedition. "Rarely do we get a full perspective of the ocean's unique deep environments. The questions that the scientists will be able to answer following this cruise will pave the way for a better understanding of the deep sea, which is not exempt from human impact."
Falkor is now back in the Mariana Trench conducting research that will complement the previous expedition and continue to explore this unique environment.