Immersion in the abysmal Atacama Trench

It’s a very small submersible, and it’s called Limited Factor In there, for the first time, human beings performed a feat. It is the dive into the abused Atacama Trench. It is more than 8,000 meters deep, off the Chilean coast.

Diving in the abysmal Atacama trench is a new milestone for man.
Diving into the abysmal Atacama trench is a new milestone for man.

Between plates

Osvaldo Ulloa and Rubén Escribano are two Chilean scientists. They direct the Millennium Institute of Oceanography. Thanks to Victor Vescovo, an American explorer and tycoon, the expedition took place. Vescovo has several milestones in his history. He climbed the highest peaks of the planet and reached both poles. A few years ago, he made the decision to be the first person to descend to the lowest points of the five oceans.

The Atacama trench lies between a dense oceanic plate, Nazca, and a continental plate, the South American. “One sinks under the other. This is what happens off the Chilean coast,” Ulloa says. The Nazca plate is sinking at six centimeters per year, a geological enormity. That is why it attracts the attention of researchers around the world.

“It took us three and a half hours to get there,” describes the marine biologist and academic. Defying the pressure, they reached the 8,069-meter depth. “Getting down and seeing for the first time what’s there was a very strong emotion. The first thing we saw was how much life there was,” Ulloa recounts. “This would be the trench with the greatest biodiversity and life, the most productive in the world,” he adds.

Unforgettable experience

Down below, they sailed for hours on a plain of sand and sediment. “We started to see geological structure, broken rock, canyons. It was something I didn’t expect. I told Victor an analogy that appeared in my mind: this looks like flying over the Andes Mountains,” says the scientist.

The expedition was financed by an American magnate.
The expedition was financed by an American tycoon.

The submarine was manufactured in Florida, USA, especially for Vescovo’s exploits. It has three small windows and high-definition cameras. Ulloa in 2018 led the project Atacamexthey achieved images of the bottom of the Atacama Trench through an unmanned vehicle. “It is one thing to see something in a video and another to experience it through the senses while sailing. It is an unforgettable, extraordinary, magical experience.”

Treasure to be discovered

The dive in the abysmal Atacama Trench is the first in that place. Before that, there are only 3 expeditions to the Mariana Trench. The first time happened in 1960 and, then, it was done by the film director James Cameron, who went down alone in 2012.

The Limited Factor has already set sail for other oceans. But it leaves questions and broad avenues for scientific research. “It is a treasure that we have not yet opened,” says the Chilean scientist.

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