Tag: Mariana Trench

Life Is Thriving In Earth’s Deep Sea Circle Of Hell

In one of the most hostile environments on planet Earth, life perseveres. Immense pressure, frigid temperatures, and geysers of incredibly hot fluid define this seemingly-inhospitable environment at the bottom of the world’s deepest ocean trench. How do researchers study such an ecosystem, and what could possibly survive in a biosphere like that? While getting there is far from easy, the abundance of life is truly amazing.

Flooring Facts And Figures

The Mariana Trench is the deepest ocean trench and the lowest point on the surface of the Earth, 7,000 feet lower than Mount Everest would reach if you turned it on its head. The bottom of the trench is 36,000 feet below sea level, where the last rays of light faded entirely from view some 23,000 feet above. The water down in the Challenger Deep lingers near freezing all year-round.

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In the Mariana Trench, the water is a brisk 34 degrees Fahrenheit, and the pressure of all that water is enough to crush a human being in an instant. The only sources of warmth are hydrothermal vents, which spew superheated water and minerals as the ocean meets the magma seeping up from the mantle below. These vents can reach temperatures of 750 degrees Fahrenheit, but the water cannot boil because of the incredible pressure.

Strange Creatures Of The Deep

Anything living down in the depths of the Mariana Trench must be able to withstand the extremes. Millions of years of evolution have led to the development of many strange-looking creatures that dwell in the inky blackness of the depths below the abyss. Among those creatures are fish, like the frilled shark and the deep sea hatchetfish, which make up some of the deep ocean’s frighteningly toothy predators. The frilled shark has a pale, eel-like body with a flexible skeleton and two rows of widely-spaced, needle-like teeth. While it is creepy-looking, it seems relatively normal when compared to the hatchetfish, whose body is much taller than it is wide. The incredible thing about the hatchetfish is its ability to produce its own glow, called bioluminescence, to match the amount of light filtering down from above, so that if viewed from below, it remains unseen.


Most of the creatures dwelling in the depths of the trench, however, are invertebrates. Tubeworms most famously make their homes alongside the boiling hot hydrothermal vents, feeding off of the mineral-rich liquid they spew. Another type of deep-sea worm that makes its home in the Mariana Trench is the zombie worm, which feeds off of animal detritus, including bones, by excreting acid that breaks down the food into easily-absorbable nutrients.

It’s Not All Bad

Not everything that lives at the bottom of the ocean is terrifying. Sea cucumbers are goofy little blobs that live on the ocean floor and eat plankton and whatever leftovers they can sweep up from the sand. Sea stars also make their home in the dark waters, feeling along the ground for anything good to eat. The fleshy, skeleton-less bodies of these little critters have no problem surviving in the chilly, high-pressure depths.

Finally, the cutest creatures you’ll find in the Challenger Deep is also one of the smallest. Members of the fantastic group of living things called extremophiles, tardigrades love the boiling-hot waters near hydrothermal vents. These little organisms often referred to as water bears can survive just about anywhere, including the vacuum of space. They are as resilient as they are adorable, and they don’t mind the weather down there one bit.

Check out these other strange creatures that live at the bottom of the world’s deepest trench.

The Ocean Is A Vast, Unexplored Mystery That’s Still Full Of Secrets

Space is hardly the final frontier when it comes to human exploration.

All around us are the oceans, a vast and unmapped region teeming with life that is largely undiscovered. The amount of stuff that science doesn’t know about the world’s oceans could literally fill an ocean.

Creatures of the Deep

Most of the species that live in the ocean are unknown to us. According to a study that was featured in the journal Biology, the oceans are home to up to one million different species.

Of them, around two-thirds have yet to be discovered. In many ways, the world’s oceans are a mysterious realm of possibility that humans have barely begun to explore.

There is so much unknown life in the oceans, an average of 200 new ocean species are discovered every year and we’ve still barely scratched the surface.

What You Never Knew

The oceans cover about 70 percent of the surface of the Earth, and yet there are so many unknowns about the mysteries lurking beneath those blue waves.

The deepest part of the oceans, the Mariana Trench, extends 7 miles below the surface of the water.

To put that into perspective, Mount Everest could fit down in the trench with room to spare.

Manned explorations of the trench have never descended deeper than 35,797 feet below the surface.

Entire ecosystems exist under the surface of the oceans, including lakes, rivers, mountain ranges, volcanoes, and waterfalls.

The most impressive waterfall in the entire world lies beneath the surface of the ocean. The Denmark Strait is a waterfall with an 11,500-foot drop that makes Niagara Falls look like a trickle.

More to Discover

One oceanographer has estimated that humans have actually explored less than 10 percent of the planet. But for humans, it’s extremely difficult to explore the deep areas of the ocean and we have yet to successfully map the entire ocean floor.

Equipment makes it possible to get a general idea of what’s down there, but even the most sophisticated technology doesn’t provide detail.

The U.S. National Ocean Service says that more than 80 percent of the ocean is “unmapped, unobserved, and unexplored,” an idea that’s both thrilling and chilling. An untold number of shipwrecks and air wrecks lay on the floor of the ocean, out of sight and out of reach.

Legend hints that the remnants of fabulous cities, like the mythic Atlantis, lay waiting down here in the darkness as well. The ocean could hold the keys to some of history’s greatest mysteries.

Sleeping Secrets

Humans have explored about 5 percent of the ocean floor. The other 95 percent has never been seen by human eyes.

There are canyons wider and deeper than the Grand Canyon, incredible valleys, lakes that are more than 300 feet deep and species no person has ever seen hiding under the waters of the ocean.

The plant and animal life that exists here is incredibly varied and may answer all sorts of questions we have about our world.

But we’ll have to find them first.

Humans are not built to spend extended periods of time underwater, which puts an enormous amount of pressure on the body.

The temperatures in the ocean also vary widely, getting as hot at 750 degrees F in some places near underwater volcanoes.

The ocean remains a place of shadowy, hidden mysteries that humans can’t yet reach. That makes the possibilities tantalizing and thrilling.