As if a flight to the Space Station wasn't enough, one extraordinary explorer adds another feather to his cap with a record-breaking dive to the deepest spot on Earth.
Video game developer, entrepreneur, and private astronaut Richard Garriott de Cayeux is the only human on the planet to ever venture to the North and South Poles, low earth orbit, and now visit the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench.
Congratulations to TEC Member & President-Elect @RichardGarriott on completing the historic dive to the #ChallengerDeep, onboard DSSV Pressure Drop (@CaladanOceanic). He joins Medalist @AstroKDS as the only explorers to orbit the Earth & dive to the deepest point in the ocean. pic.twitter.com/2NOByAKGtO— ExplorersClub (@ExplorersClub) March 1, 2021
On March 1, Garriott de Cayeux took the trip down 36,000 feet (approximately seven miles) below the surface of the Pacific Ocean and back in 12 hours, and it required a specially-engineered submarine called the DSV Limiting Factor.
Back from the bottom of Challenger Deep - my ninth dive there. Was accompanied by Richard Garriott, the incoming President of the Explorer's Club. We were able to spend two hours on the seafloor, continuing our exploration of this, the deepest point on the planet. More to come. pic.twitter.com/0HLa4A6mHS— Victor Vescovo (@VictorVescovo) March 1, 2021
There's room for only two occupants in what is essentially a titanium sphere, with walls 3.5 inches thick uniquely built to withstand the incredible pressure of the Mariana Trench, the world's lowest ocean depth. It's the only manned-submersible in the world certified for such a deep dive.
"It's pretty close to a perfect sphere of a little under six feet in diameter," Garriott de Cayeux told us when initially preparing for the trip last year. "That little cocoon is protecting you from the 18,000 pounds per square inch of pressure."
While conditions at that extreme depth might sound completely uninhabitable, according to Victor Vescovo, a global explorer, former US Navy Officer, and the pilot of DSV Limiting Factor, "life finds a way."
The explorer noted small amphipods, a type of crustacean, feasting on bait at the very bottom of Challenger Deep, where it's perpetually pitch dark and freezing cold.
Video of the Limiting Factor submersible cruising above the shattered rocks of the Challenger Deep, Pacific Plate side. We looked for something to pick up but they were all too big. More exploring hopefully tomorrow on the Filipino Plate side. pic.twitter.com/oJ4sVFKYWf— Victor Vescovo (@VictorVescovo) March 2, 2021
Garriott de Cayeux and company engaged in several experiments during the trip, including sampling for microplastics and extremophiles, demonstrating the crushing impact of pressure on objects like styrofoam cups and copper, and exhibiting kids' art and poetry.
Cups, cups and more cup squished and to be squished in the depths of the challenger deep. pic.twitter.com/hhMV162KOf— Richard Garriott (@RichardGarriott) March 4, 2021
Garriott de Cayeux joins an ultra-elite club as the 15th person to ever visit Challenger Deep. The trip was the ninth dive for Vescovo and DSV Limiting Factor.
It wasn't the first time this astronaut turned aquanaut went deep underwater; Garriott de Cayeux took part in the first completely private expedition of the Titanic wreckage in 1998.
Co-founder of Origin Systems and creator of the highly successful Ultima video game series, Garriott de Cayeux, who is known as Lord British to his legion of followers, splits most of his time between Austin and New York City. Garriott de Cayeux flew to the International Space Station as a private astronaut in 2008, and is the son of NASA astronaut Owen Garriott.
Stay tuned for a full debrief interview with Garriott de Cayeux on Spectrum News 1 Texas, and if you can't wait, we've got a bit more here for you as well.