Dubai: A Dubai resident is set to make history on Friday by traversing the length of the Challenger Deep at the Mariana Trench which, at nearly 11km deep, is equivalent to more than 13 times the height of Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower.
Hamish Harding, chairman of Action Aviation, will go inside a purpose-built DSV Limiting Factor, a two-person deep-submergence vehicle, in support of UAE’s commitment to exploration and science by searching for evidence of human pollution at the deepest point on Earth and looking for new species living nearly 11km below sea level.
Harding will be joined by famed undersea explorer Victor Vescovo. Their exploit is set to make a new Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled at full ocean depth.
As Harding and Vescovo traverse 25-30km across the ocean floor, they will use the submersible’s robotic arm to collect sample specimens that will be analysed by scientists onboard DSSV Pressure Drop and by teams at Newcastle University and the British Geological Survey.
The two-man submersible has been designed to take 100,000 tonnes of pressure at full ocean depth — the equivalent of 50 jumbo jets or 8,000 double-decker buses and 1,200 times more than the standard atmospheric pressure at sea level.
Harding told Gulf News: “It is truly inspiring to see the UAE make such great strides in space exploration with the recent launch of its Emirates Mars Mission and Hope Probe. My journey to the deepest depths of the ocean aims to map another uncharted territory and I hope it will contribute in some small part to the UAE’s reputation of being a place where people push human ambition to the limits.”
“The Challenger Deep is a little-studied and incredibly hostile environment. As an explorer and adventurer, I want this expedition to contribute to our shared knowledge and understanding of planet earth. During the dive, we will attempt, using a robotic arm, to collect samples from the ocean floor that could contain new life forms and may even provide further insights into how life on our planet began. And, in searching for signs of human pollution in this remote environment, we hope to aid scientific efforts to protect our oceans and ensure they flourish for millennia to come,” he added.
“I’ve long been inspired by the spirit of adventure and exploration in my home country, the UAE — the feeling that anything is possible. I am proud to represent the UAE as the first resident from the Middle East to dive the Mariana Trench to the lowest point on Earth, the Challenger Deep,” Harding continued.
Follow on social media
Harding’s 13-year-old son, Giles, will be staying aboard expedition yacht DSSV Pressure Drop, to document his father’s quest on his Instagram channel @giles.explores. Giles is a student at Dubai College and will continue his remote learning from the vessel in one of the most extreme environments in the world.
Giles, a Year 9 student at Dubai College, told Gulf News: “I didn’t want to miss the opportunity of a lifetime to join my father on his latest endeavour. While I won’t be going down to the bottom of the ocean, I’m documenting the mission aboard the ship DSSV Pressure Drop through social media, as well as keeping up with my online school through satellite internet from the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I think it’s probably one of the most remote home-schooling locations in the world. This is my second expedition with my father having become the youngest person to have reached the South Pole in 2020 when I was 12.”
Only 18 people have ever dived to the bottom of the Challenger Deep, compared with 24 astronauts who have orbited or landed on the moon and thousands who have successfully climbed Mount Everest, the highest place on earth.
The first submersible descended to the ocean floor in 1960 and spent just twenty minutes at the bottom before ascent. Fast forward to 2012, Hollywood director James Cameron was the first to make a solo manned descent aboard DSV Deepsea Challenger, spending 2 hours 34 minutes at 10,908 metres below sea level.
Harding’s mission, meanwhile, will take place aboard DSV Limiting Factor, which is the first submersible that can undertake repeat trips to Full Ocean Depth and traverse the bottom for significant periods of time.
Harding also holds the world record for the fastest circumnavigation of the earth via both poles, in a Gulfstream G650ER business jet. His ‘One More Orbit’ mission took place during the 50th anniversary celebration of the Apollo 11 moon landing, as a tribute to the past, present and future of space exploration and a celebration of human ingenuity.
Harding’s son Giles frequently joins him on his expeditions, and Giles became the youngest person ever to visit the South Pole in 2020. Harding plans to establish the One More Orbit Foundation to inspire and sponsor the explorers of tomorrow to achieve the impossible through educational outreach in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).
Lowest point on Earth
Challenger Deep is the lowest point on Earth at a depth of 10,902 metres to 10,929 metres. It is located in the Western Pacific Ocean, at the southern end of the Mariana Trench near the Mariana Islands group. The depression is named after the British Royal Navy survey ship HMS Challenger, whose expedition of 1872–1876 made the first recordings of its depth. The high water pressure at this depth makes designing and operating exploratory craft difficult. Scientists and explorers go to the lowest point on Earth to answer the question: ‘What does it take to live at the bottom of the ocean?’