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UT-Dallas Professor Dives Deep Into The Mysterious Mariana Trench

The three-person submersible 'Shinkai 6500' can dive up to 6,500 meters (about 4 miles). UT Dallas researcher Ignacio Pujana served as a scientific observer on board the vessel.

To boldly go where no man has gone before – is a phrase that usually leads to thoughts of exploring the stars, but in this case we’re referring to the deepest parts of the ocean.

The Mariana trench is tens of thousands of feet deep – and a professor with the University of Texas at Dallas talks with KERA’s Justin Martin about his recent dive there - miles underwater. 

Interview Highlights: Ignacio Pujana

… on the location and size of the trench:

“The Mariana trench is in the northwest pacific and it’s very close to Guam – It’s probably about the size of California or Texas.”

… on how the submarine gathers data and how deep it dives:

“The submarine we used can go to 6,500 meters, in this dive we went 5,900 maximum and then some shallower dives. It has two robotic arms that take samples and put them in buckets to return to the surface. ... The sub is 7 meters by 4 meters and the area where we are is even smaller, probably 3 or 2 meters and a half in diameter. It’s like a sphere because the shape resists the pressure down there.”

… on what he saw diving down:

“The light starts to go continually down - getting bluer and bluer and eventually disappear altogether and then completely dark. But not so dark because you see dots of light passing by, and those are plankton and micro plankton, and jellyfish that produce bioluminescence. So it’s quite interesting even in complete darkness.”

… on the grape-sized spheres:

“I don’t know [what they are]. It was something like a group of grapes not really connected and loosely accumulated in groups. We took a few samples and the moment the sample was being retained the things were falling apart in pieces. So, we don’t really know what it is - probably some kind of colony, maybe bacteria colonies. They are doing DNA analysis.”

Justin Martin is KERA’s local host of All Things Considered, anchoring afternoon newscasts for KERA 90.1. Justin grew up in Mannheim, Germany, and avidly listened to the Voice of America and National Public Radio whenever stateside. He graduated from the American Broadcasting School, and further polished his skills with radio veteran Kris Anderson of the Mighty 690 fame, a 50,000 watt border-blaster operating out of Tijuana, Mexico. Justin has worked as holiday anchor for the USA Radio Network, serving the U.S. Armed Forces Network. He’s also hosted, produced, and engineered several shows, including the Southern Gospel Jubilee on 660 KSKY.