The Mariana Trench is the deepest spot in the world’s oceans and only a handful of people have been there.
But for the first time, travellers are being offered the opportunity to explore it – if they have a spare $100,000 to $200,000 (£83,000 to £166,000).
Isle of Man-based Eyos Expeditions is offering three members of the public the chance to tag along on a dive it’s organising to a spot in the Western Pacific trench known as Challenger Deep – 35,853ft (10,928 metres/6.79 miles) beneath the surface. It is, the company says, the most exclusive destination on the planet.
The submersible vehicle called Limiting Factor, which will take three lucky members of the public to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the deepest spot in the oceans
Limiting Factor, pictured, has been pressure tested to 14,000 metres and has already dived to the bottom of the Mariana Trench five times
The lucky three travellers will fly to the Pacific island of Guam. From there, they will board the expedition vessel, DSSV Pressure Drop, and spend a day at sea before reaching the Mariana Trench.
The expedition, which is set to take place in June, will then use a submersible vehicle called Limiting Factor to dive to the bottom of Challenger Deep.
The vehicle has been pressure-tested to 14,000 metres (45,931ft/8.69 miles) and has already dived to the bottom of the Mariana Trench five times.
According to Eyos Expeditions, which has teamed up with Caladan Oceanic for the trip, the occupants of the submersible are completely protected by the 90mm-thick titanium sphere and ‘experience no pressure changes or physiological stresses at all’.
The firm adds: ‘Indeed, the inside of the sub is quiet, peaceful and very relaxing.
‘The sub has two comfortable seats, three viewports, and hi-definition surround cameras.’
Each dive will take up to 14 hours.
Expedition leader Rob McCallum, from Eyos Expeditions, who says that the expedition to Mariana Trench is a trip to the ‘most exclusive destination on earth’
The expedition vessel, Pressure Drop, will take guests from the island of Guam to the Mariana Trench in the Western Pacific
The descent takes over four hours. Once at the bottom the group will get to potentially film some of the most extraordinary species on the planet.
They will then begin a four-hour ascent back to the surface.
Only seven people in the past have ever made it to the bottom of Mariana Trench – one being Hollywood film director James Cameron in 2012.
No formal pre-departure training is required, and those taking part will receive a comprehensive shipboard and sub orientation as part of the pre-dive preparations.
Rob McCallum, founding partner of Eyos Expeditions, said: ‘This is the most exclusive destination on earth.
‘Currently, only three manned expeditions have ever been made to the bottom of Challenger Deep and more people have been to the moon than to the bottom of the ocean. Four thousand people have been to Everest and 562 to space – only seven have made it to Challenger Deep.
‘This will be a rare and special opportunity to participate in and help fund genuine exploration in the modern age.
One of the landers launched before each dive that sends back detailed reports on ocean conditions at depth and acts as a communication and navigation aid
‘These three mission specialists joining the expedition will be at the forefront of our continued scientific research into the ocean’s virtually unknown hadal zone [the ocean below 6,000m/3.72 miles/19,685ft], and demonstrate the power of private travel to advance our understanding of the planet.
‘Whilst onboard [the mother vessel], the mission specialists will be fully integrated members of the team and free to work alongside our sonar operator/ocean mappers, submersible technicians, film production team, expedition management and ship’s officers to gain an insight into the complexities and challenges of hadal exploration.
‘Tracking and communicating with the sub is a great way to spend the day, as is the launch and recovery sequence, which is an “all hands” activity.
‘When we are not diving, we relax by taking in a movie, heading to the gym, reading, or heading up to the Sky Bar for a sundowner.’
Eyos Expeditions says that every new dive is ‘rehearsed’ at a full team meeting that draws in the collective expertise of the captain, sonar operator, chief scientist, sub team and the expedition leader
On Limiting Factor’s previous dives to Challenger Deep, both new species and discarded plastic were found
The dive is part of a much longer six-month-long Ring of Fire expedition Eyos and Caladan Oceanic are operating.
Ben Lyons, Eyos Expeditions’ CEO, said: ‘The Ring of Fire expedition will continue the groundbreaking work of the Five Deeps Expedition (FDE) last year.
‘Its collective mission is to verify and test the deepest points possible, collect and analyze scientific samples, and extend humankind’s knowledge of the most extreme environment on earth.
‘Pressure Drop will further contribute to science with powerful full-ocean-depth sonar – Kongsberg EM-124. It can produce high-resolution 3D maps of the deepest seafloor in order to further our knowledge of the oceans.’
The science team – led by Five Deeps veteran Dr. Alan Jamieson from Newcastle University – will deploy landers [robotic submersibles] to collect further biological samples and shoot valuable video footage.
This continues the work of the FDE where over 40 new species have already been identified, with this number expected to rise significantly as the samples are processed. The dives will also continue to assess and document environmental impact (including plastic pollution) at the deepest point of the oceans.
On the Limiting Factor’s previous dives to Challenger Deep, both new species and discarded plastic were found.
Eyos Expeditions’ team has cumulatively completed over 1,200 expeditions, and will plan, manage and lead all aspects of the voyage including logistical support, team travel and permits.
James Cameron emerges from the one-man submersible Deepsea Challenger after his successful descent to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in 2012
Last year Eyos led a dive to the Titanic in the North Atlantic Ocean to assess how microbial life was eating away at the wreck.
But it was reported that a submarine hired by the company struck the legendary ocean liner due to ‘intense and highly unpredictable currents’.
An Eyos Expedition leader confirmed that there had been contact with the Titanic but said that any damage to the remains would have been minor.
Guests interested in joining the Mariana Trench expedition should contact EYOS Expeditions for pricing and full details at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information visit www.eyos.com.