A groundbreaking expedition to the deepest parts of the world’s five oceans will dock in Perth in March and explore what was a key search area for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
The Five Deeps project, launched in New York last week, is set to provide scientific findings from the floors of the Indian, Arctic, Atlantic, Southern and Pacific oceans and explore the little-known Diamantina Trench, about 1125km south-west of Perth.
At more than 7000m, the Diamantina Trench is one of the deepest points in the Indian Ocean and is still considered one of the most likely resting places for the wreckage of MH370.
Extreme explorer Victor Vescovo told The West Australian he hoped to rewrite crucial cartographic information about the ocean floor in the waters off WA and vowed to name any new species he found using names with an “Australian flavour”.
“I mean, they’re in your backyard, so to speak,” Mr Vescovo said, describing the WA leg of the expedition as a “very, very deep underwater Australian walkabout”.
His journey in the $68 million manned submersible, Limiting Factor, will go further and deeper than any in history and to places not seen before.
If the project is successful, Mr Vescovo will become the first person to have been to the top of all the world’s continents as well as the bottom of all its oceans after last year completing the “Explorers Grand Slam”, which included climbing Mt Everest and skiing at least 100km to the North and South poles.
He will be joined in Limiting Factor by Newcastle University scientist Alan Jamieson and the pair hope to become just the fourth and fifth people to have touched down on the deepest known place on the sea floor — the Pacific Ocean’s Challenger Deep.
“The Indian Ocean sites we are going have never been explored by any vehicle, manned or otherwise, and that’s what makes these locations extremely exciting,” Dr Jamieson said.
“We hope to contribute a great deal to our knowledge of the Indian Ocean as a whole by exploring the depths that are normally out of reach.
“There is a growing body of evidence that shows that not only is the Indian Ocean a unique hotspot for biodiversity, but the deep areas are likely to host very unique species never before discovered.”
Mr Vescovo visited Perth and Fremantle in 1996. He said he hoped to find, with modern sonar equipment, that the Diamantina Trench, which was last measured in 1961, surpassed the Java Trench as the deepest part of the Indian Ocean.
“To our knowledge, no human has even been to the bottom of the Diamantina,” he said.
“Four of the oceans have never even had a human being explore their deepest depths.
“In fact, we don’t even know with great certainty where the bottom of the four are.”
The project, a collaboration between Caladan Oceanic, Triton Submarines and EYOS Expeditions, will include dives to Puerto Rico Trench (Atlantic Ocean, 8408m), South Sandwich Trench (Southern Ocean, 8183m), Java Trench (Indian Ocean, 7290m), Mariana Trench/Challenger Deep (Pacific Ocean, 10,925m) and Molloy Deep (Arctic Ocean, 5573m).
Dr Jamieson said the potential discoveries of five deeps and the expedition’s ocean floor mapping would provide scientific innovation in almost every area of biological, geological and oceanographic study. The expedition will cover 74,000km in 11 months, starting this month in the Atlantic Ocean.