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CNN10 2021-11-01

CNN 10

Special Edition of Deep Sea Explorers Going to the Deepest Part of the Pacific Ocean. Aired 4-4:10a ET

Aired November 01, 2021 - 04:00:00 ET


CARL AZUZ, CNN 10 ANCHOR: Hi, I'm Carl Azuz. Thank you so much for watching CNN 10. We've got something a little different for you today. A special edition, an in depth show because you really can't go anywhere more in depth than the Challenger Deep.

The deepest point of the world's deepest trench in the world's deepest ocean, we're talking about the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean.

National Geographic describes this as a scar in the Earth's crust. It's located about seven miles beneath the waves.

The trench measures more than 1,500 miles long and it's 43 miles wide on average. So we're talking about a pretty big scar overall, and the Challenger Deep is near the southern end of it. It takes a feat of engineering just to get there.

It takes hours of diving to hit bottom, and it's largely an unexplored frontier. Even though thousands of people have reached the top of the world on Mt. Everest, fewer than 25 have reached the bottom of it in the Challenger Deep. New Zealander, Rob McCallum is one of them.

On April 8th, he became the first person from his country to go there and he went along with Tim MacDonald the first person from Australia to complete the feat. They sent us this video and everything else you are about to see. And I had the opportunity to interview Mr. McCallum about the experience, not long after he hit rock bottom and then resurfaced in early 2021. Let's dive into this special.


ROB MCCALLUM, DEEP SEA EXPLORER, FOUNDING PARTNER OF EYOS EXPEDITION: It's the last unexplored frontier on Earth. We know very little about this --this region, what we call the Hadal Zone, which is that area of the ocean below 6,000 meters or 20,000 feet.

AZUZ: You can't just get there in a normal submarine. What sort of vehicle does it take to withstand the pressures there?

MCCALLUM: I guess, a very interesting question, because pressure is entirely relative. When a spacecraft goes up into space, they're only experiencing a pressure change of one atmosphere between the inside of the spacecraft and the outside. We are dealing with a pressure differential of around 1,000 atmospheres.

So, we dive in a titanium sphere, which is able to withstand 100,000 tons of pressure. Just on the hatch, through which we get into the submarine, just the hatch alone, has 2,200 tons or around five fully laden Boeing 747's pushing down on it.

AZUZ: That's -- that's incredible. I mean, somebody can't go out and -- and buy that. How does one acquire a vehicle like that?

MCCALLUM: This vehicle was made for this specific purpose. It was designed and built by Triton Submarines in Florida, specifically to be able to voyage down through 7 and 1/2 miles of water comb to get to the bottom. And that's why it's got, kind of, an interesting shape. It looks like a pillow that's on it's side and that's so that it can drop down through the water comb very, very quickly.

AZUZ: You said very quickly. How long does it take to get to that depth?

MCCALLUM: It takes around 4 and a half hours to get to the deepest point of the world's ocean. We go down through the water at about six feet per second.

AZUZ: And coming back?

MCCALLUM: We release ballast weight on the bottom to -- to just spring us off the bottom and head toward the surface, and so it's about a 3 and 1/2 hour ride home.

AZUZ: What are you seeing when you get to the ocean floor in the deepest part of it?

MCCALLUM: This is the most fantastic part of what we're doing. It's true exploration. You know, we never know what we're going to see. Every dive has yielded something fascinating, often something new to science. We are seeing creatures for the first time. We are discovering entire landscapes which were previously unknown.

AZUZ: That's still a full day just in travel time. So how much time does that give you on the ocean's floor?

MCCALLUM: We try to stay down for 3 to 5 hours on the bottom. You know, it's a big investment of time and energy. It takes the entire team to get this vehicle prepared and get it down, and so we -- we try every minute possible on the bottom.

Our submersible has three viewports. One for each of the occupants (inaudible), so one central one will allow us to see down to the sea floor and we're also surrounded by very high-definition cameras that are all linked to a screen in front of us. And we can look in any direction outside, and that's important because we don't really know where we're going.

We're almost always the very first humans that have ever been there. And so although we have a three dimensional map that we've made the day before, we need a very good view outside to see what's coming. You know, for humans, we don't really fear what we can't sense.

So in an airliner, and you're looking out. You don't naturally think of the wind going past at 500 miles per hour and it's minus 50 out there and it's not enough air to breathe. Just, I can see a town or I can see a track and it's the same in the sub. There's no sensation of movement.

There's no sensation of sound. You can't hear or feel anything from outside. It's just a very peaceful, relaxing cruise into the unknown. I think that we know so little about the ocean that we barely understand what questions to ask, let alone have the ability to -- to understand the answers. My role and the role of -- of the team that I work with is to simply open the door.

This is the first vehicle of all of human history that has the ability to reach the deep ocean, in any ocean, at any depth, at any time. It's a --it's akin to the Wright Brothers, with the first flying machine. This was just the first baby steps.

AZUZ: I know the technology might be a way, a way from creating a, sort of, ocean exploration station that withstand depths like that, but we have reported on there -- there is more funding and investment in underwater exploration stations. I mean, how important would you feel those would be as contrast and well let's say the International Space Station.

MCCALLUM: Both are important. Don't get me wrong. I'm not taking a shot at space travel, but you know, space is a vast void, a vacuum that so far has proved to be lifeless. The ocean is nothing like that. The ocean is full of life. You know, right from the surface all the way down to the very, very bottom.

I think before we leave home and start exploring the heavens, we should at least explore our own backyard more thoroughly. I think that many of the answers to our collective future are going to be found in the ocean, and some of those in the deep ocean.

The answers to how we're going handle all the carbon in the atmosphere. The answers to the dynamics of our ocean and how we can arrest the decline of the ocean, but also the things that we might discover in terms of valuable compounds for medicines and that sort of thing.

AZUZ: So why do you think there's so much interest in space exploration, when we could be exploring what we have right here?

MCCALLUM: I think it's a simple as when we gaze up at the heavens, we -- we have a sense of wonder. What's out there? What can we find? We always look skyward because we're terrestrial mammals. We -- we -- we look up to the heavens.

When we look into the water, you really don't see that much. We see an opaque plain -- platform that we pull fish out of, maybe go for a swim in, but we don't actually don't go too far down. You know, my dive was about 36,000 feet. Most humans never get below about 300 feet. So there's a long way to go yet.


AZUZ: So it appears we've barely scratched the "surface" and there's still so many questions in "limbo" except how low you can go, because we know from those who've plumbed the depths and help us both "deepen our sea" of knowledge and reach new heights of understanding. Today's show takes us to Plano, as in Plano, Texas, where we heard from Plano West Senior High School.

If you'd like a shout out to your school, and we know you do. Please subscribe and comment at YouTube.com/CNN10. I don't personally choose the schools we mention. They're emailed to me daily by someone who only looks at our YouTube site. I'm Carl Azuz for CNN.