In 2020, Vanessa O’Brien crammed into a small deep-sea vehicle with pilot Victor Vescovo. She was headed into the unknown.
Eight years earlier, O’Brien had climbed to the top of Mount Everest. That’s the world’s highest point. Now, she was trying to reach its lowest: Challenger Deep. It’s the deepest part of the Mariana Trench, a long, narrow canyon in the Pacific Ocean.
O’Brien and Vescovo’s vehicle is called a submersible. It was lowered into the water by a crane from a ship. Within minutes, the deep blue of the ocean turned to pitch-black. As the sub slowly descended, the water got darker and colder. It was completely quiet. After about four hours, Vescovo said, “Touchdown!”
They’d finally reached the deepest place on the planet.
“The bottom looks a little bit like what I imagine the moon to look like,” says O’Brien. “It’s very still. This is an uninterrupted, unvisited place.”