On January 23, 1960, Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh descended 10,915 meters (35,810 feet) into the Pacific Ocean in the bathyscaphe Trieste. The Trieste took four hours and 48 minutes to descend into the portion of the Mariana Trench known as the Challenger Deep. The bathyscaphe—a special submarine with very thick outer plating—spent 30 minutes at the bottom. That far down, the temperature was just above freezing and pressure on the hull was more than 111 megapascals (16,000 pounds per square inch).

Piccard and Walsh observed flatfish and worms on the seabed, revealing that life could indeed survive in the hostile environment of the deep ocean. Samples of sediment from the ocean floor revealed more 400 species of microorganisms. In 2012, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence James Cameron became the first person to follow Piccard and Walsh to the Challenger Deep, and the first do to it alone. Walsh, a member of Cameron’s team, was waiting on deck.

Noun

vehicle used to explore the deep ocean. Developed after the bathysphere.

Challenger Deep
Noun

deepest measured point in the ocean (part of the Mariana Trench), about 11,000 meters (36,198 feet), located in the South Pacific Ocean.

environment
Noun

conditions that surround and influence an organism or community.

Explorer-in-Residence
Noun

pre-eminent explorers and scientists collaborating with the National Geographic Society to make groundbreaking discoveries that generate critical scientific information, conservation-related initiatives and compelling stories.

hostile
Adjective

confrontational or unfriendly.

hull
Noun

main body of a ship.

microorganism
Noun

very tiny living thing.

seabed
Noun

the floor of the ocean.

sediment
Noun

underwater soil.

submarine
Noun

vehicle that can travel underwater.

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