Frequently Asked Questions
The Five Deeps Expedition is the first manned expedition to the deepest points in each of the world’s five oceans. A team of more than 30 people will travel around the world with a first-of-its-kind, commercially-rated Triton submersible called DSV Limiting Factor to dive to the bottoms of the Puerto Rico Trench (Atlantic Ocean), South Sandwich Trench (Southern Ocean), Java Trench (Indian Ocean), Challenger Deep (Pacific Ocean), and Molloy Deep (Arctic Ocean) as well as several additional global highlights including a potential dive to the wreck of the recently located (in 2017) USS Indianapolis. The team also plans to dive to the bottom of the Meteor Deep (South Atlantic) as well as the Diamantina Deep (southern Indian Ocean), Philippine Trench, South Solomon Trench (Solomon Islands), and Tonga Trenches to enhance the world’s knowledge of these seldom, if ever, visited deep ocean features.
The submersible to be used in the expedition, the Deep Submergence Vehicle (DSV) Limiting Factor, is fully operational. It has already been tested multiple times in the open ocean to 5,000 meters and is technically rated to 11,000 meters (36,000 feet or full ocean depth, “FOD”). The “LF” was designed, built, and tested primarily in the United States but many components were assembled and tested in other locations around the world. It was the desire of the expedition’s financial sponsor, Caladan Oceanic, to keep the vessel’s three-year design and construction effort strictly confidential until it had been fully tested and ready to begin its journey.
A number of goals have been set for the dives along the lines of ecology, oceanography, marine biology, and geomorphology. Ultimately, the expedition aims to map many areas of the deep ocean on its voyage for the benefit of the scientific community. The team will collect samples to be used in groundbreaking research involving everything habitat mapping, describing new geological features, discovering new species, examining genetic connectivity and biological adaptation to these extreme marine environments, and from bacteria to fish. Additionally, the mission hopes to provide mankind with a new technical solution — a fully reusable, commercially-rated, full-ocean-depth submersible — that will provide the ability to regularly explore the Earth’s most remote and extreme frontier: the deep ocean.
The largest challenge is the unknown. A ‘world first’ expedition of this magnitude operating in remote locations with a prototype vehicle presents a great number of potential variables, for which each must be meticulously planned. Many of the locations are very remote and will require the FDE to operate with complete autonomy.
As we traverse from the Arctic to the Antarctic and across the broad expanse of our largest oceans, the FDE will traverse through areas notorious for challenging sea conditions. The submersible must be launched and retrieved from the ocean safely before and after every dive.
As a global expedition, working in remote locations lacking infrastructure, the logistics around crew movements, medical evacuation, port calls, refueling, provisioning, equipment repairand permits require seemingly endless. This work will be planned and managed by one of the most expert firms in the world for this kind of work, EYOS Expeditions.
As a tool for geographic exploration, the DSV Limiting Factor is one of the most uniquely-capable, piloted vehicles in seafaring history. The submersible, built by Triton Submarines of the United States, is fully certified to commercial safety standards – unlike any pervious deep-diving submersible – and packed with the latest in deep water technology. Typically, first-generation deep water subs like the US Navy’s Trieste, called bathyscapes, were filled with lighter-than-water fuel to allow for buoyancy much like a balloon that floats in the air. The Limiting Factor, however, is constructed with glass-bead based “syntactic” foam which is far more durable and able to withstand the enormous pressure placed on the sub as it descends thousands of meters beneath the waves, and do so repeatedly without significant deformation or stress fractures developing over time.
The two-person control capsule has space for a pilot and passenger, is constructed of titanium alloy, and has three viewports featuring full-ocean depth capable acrylic-based lenses. Machined with extreme precision to less than 1 millimeter of variance across its near-perfect spherical shape, the capsule and its components have been repeatedly stressed in dedicated test chambers to 120% of full ocean depth with no negative anomalies detected.
The submersible has multiple-redundant analog life support systems and dual-redundant L-3 underwater telephone modems for communication with the surface. For long-distance communications on the surface, the vessel has VHF radio as well as an Iridium satellite beacon and satellite telephone communication suite which allows for nearly seamless transmission of verbal contact between the crew onboard the Pressure Drop support ship and those within Limiting Factor on the surface or when underwater.
The DSV Limiting Factor is the first fully commercial accredited and insurable full ocean depth (FOD) manned submersible. The official certification of the vessel to FOD by is overseen by an independent third party, the world-standard credentialer of maritime vessels DNV-GL (Det Norske Veritas Germanischer Lloyd). This firm has taken part in every step of the design, machining, construction and testing process – meaning that the sub is fully vetted and can be trusted by all who utilize it to repeatedly dive to extreme Hadal depths.
Not only will humans be able to finally obtain reliable access to some of the world’s most punishing environments, they will have the ability to study organisms and other undiscovered samples which promise a world of new scientific discovery in many areas of biological, geological and oceanographic study. This great unearthing of knowledge could propel scientists across the world into a new era of exploration and innovation.
The DSV Limiting Factor will provide a platform for all future marine scientists to reach any depth, in any ocean, from almost any suitably-equipped support vessel. Additional submersibles can be easily constructed from the same design and quickly certified given the commercial certification the design has already achieved.
Almost all remote-controlled subs or remotely-operated vehicles (ROVs) require a cable to provide power, control, and video feeds to the operators. At extreme depths these cables can become too heavy to support from the surface, they can break resulting in the potential loss of the tethered vehicle, and video-based control doesn’t have the same response fidelity as an operator working in three dimensions immediately next to an area of interest. Installing a human pilot inside a submersible allows for easier real-time dynamic navigation, higher visual resolution of targets by the human eye and its inherent peripheral vision, and much easier manipulation of deep-sea samples and equipment.
For live updates on the expedition, visit fivedeeps.com. Progress will be recorded daily. The website also has all of the information one might need regarding the technology, scientific goals, crew and team bios, expedition overview, and more.
A groundbreaking documentary about the expedition is also being filmed by Discovery Channel, and will air in 2019/2020.
The flags of the United States, Texas and Albania represent the national or state flag of key members of the expedition or their supporting partners and families. The United Nations flag is symbolic of the truly international nature of the design and assembly of the Limiting Factor and execution of the Five Deeps Expedition by all those who have and are contributing to it worldwide. Over twenty different nationalities have provided components, assistance, time, or are actual members of the overall endeavor.
Please note that the presence of the flags on the submersible do not represent official state or organizational sanction of those entities for the expedition. They are purely a display of personal affinity for them by the expedition’s sponsor.
The financial sponsor behind the Limiting Factor’s design and construction, Victor Vescovo, is a great admirer of the science fiction genre and in particular of the “Culture” series by Scottish author Ian M. Banks. In the books, the space-faring vessels are self-aware, highly symbiotic with their human counterparts, and grant themselves distinctive names. “Limiting Factor,” as well as “Pressure Drop” are two of the ship names in the series that seemed to fit their character. Thus, the names are an homage to the author, who passed away in 2013.
The expedition motto simply means “In the Deeps: Knowledge” and conveys the mission to expand human technology and increase our understanding of the world through the exploration of the largest, most inaccessible, and unexplored places left on Earth.
Yes. The Limiting Factor has a Kraft Telerobotics “Raptor” hydraulic manipulator capable of functioning at full-ocean depth. See: krafttelerobotics.com for more details.
The Limiting Factor’s pressure hull is made of Grade 23 Titanium (Ti-6Al-4V ELI) with a 1500 mm (59 – inches) inside diameter and a hull thickness of 90 mm (3.5 inches)
Anywhere of scientific, oceanographic, or environmental interest to the owner. Currently we are traversing the globe to prove out the ship and sub system capabilities in all environments, as well as do some groundbreaking science and cartography on the way. This is a technical capability verification and scientific mission.
That is currently under discussion, but will remain confidential at this time.
No. At the current time, the entire effort is sponsored by Caladan Oceanic, a private marine-technology development company. Sponsors could be added, however, if they fit with the mission’s goals and character.
Please refer all inquiries to Stephanie Fitzherbert of The Richards Group, who is coordinating allpublic relations and other inquiries for the team. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org [+1 (214) 891-5700]
There are many deep-diving submersibles currently operational in the world today, some active, and some in development and testing. The deepest diving, currently active submersible is China’s Jiaolong which has descended to 7,500 meters — which appears to be its maximum depth. The Limiting Factor dove repeatedly to 4,900 meters in the Abaco Canyon off the Bahama Islands in September 2018. However, the Limiting Factor has a designed maximum depth of 11,000 meters and thus it is believed to be the most capable deep-diving active submersible in the world according to design limit. In May of 2019, it is intended to verify this depth rating by diving in the Challenger Deep in the Pacific Ocean. The submersibles Trieste and Deepsea Challenger dove to the bottom of the Challenger Deep, but both of those vessels are currently retired from diving.
Yes, on December 19, 2018, the Limiting Factor became the first manned submersible to reach the true bottom of the Atlantic Ocean at a verified depth of 8,375.1 meters. The location was identified after multiple days of sweeping the sea floor using the Pressure Drop’s Kongsberg EM124 mult-beam sonar and after extensive sonar return analysis by a five-person team supported by noted marine geologist Dr. Heather Stewart of the British Geological Survey. The sole submarine pilot, Victor Vescovo, thus became the first person to dive the Atlantic’s deepest point and it was also the second-deepest solo submersible dive in history (second only to Director James Cameron’s 2012 solo dive to the Challenger Deep).
Yes, on February 5, 2019, the Limiting Factor became the first manned submersible to reach the true bottom of the Southern Ocean at a verified depth of 7,433.6 meters/24,388 feet. Located just north of the Antarctic continent, the Southern Ocean’s South Sandwich Trench has not been thoroughly explored and is the only subzero Hadal zone (deeper than 6,000 meters) in the world. No human has ever dived in the trench, and what few samples have been taken from its hadal depths, date back to the early 1970s. Due to its remote location, this dive posed many logistical and weather-related challenges, however the scientific findings could prove to be groundbreaking. Pilot, Victor Vescovo was able to safely reach the bottom of the South Sandwich Trench in approximately 2.7 hours. While on the bottom accompanied by two deep-diving scientific landers, he mapped and took high-definition video of the sea floor and also collected soil and water samples for further study.
Yes, the Five Deeps Expedition has successfully conducted the first detailed, sonar mapping and sample-collection mission at the deepest part of the Diamantina Fracture Zone of the Indian Ocean – an area known as the Dordrecht Deep. Using advanced multi-beam sonar and an ultra-deep-sea lander, the team found it to be 7,019 meters deep, slightly shallower than previously thought when historically measured by other, less precise, methods.
The data will be an important contribution to the Nippon Foundation – GEBCO – Seabed 2030 Project to map the world’s seafloor in detail by the end of the year 2030.
Yes, on April 11, 2019, the DSV Limiting Factor became the first manned submersible to reach the true bottom of the Indian Ocean at a verified depth of 7,192 meters. At the bottom of the trench, the team managed to capture footage from the sub and from the landers of what are believed to be entirely new species, yet unseen by humans. From the sub, a new species of hadal snailfish was observed amongst many other bottom dwelling organisms, and the landers observed an extraordinary gelatinous animal – thought to be a bottom dwelling comb jelly – which does not resemble anything seen before.
Among other things, the Five Deeps Expedition has finally settled the debate about where the deepest point in the Indian Ocean is. The Kongsberg EM124 multibeam sonar – the most advanced sonar currently mounted on a civilian vessel – provided detailed maps of the Diamantina Fracture Zone sea floor off the coast of Australia, as well as the deepest parts of the Java Trench. Together with physical visitation from unmanned landers and the DSV Limiting Factor submersible, the expedition team has built the most precise maps possible of the deepest places in the Indian Ocean. The deepest point is in the central part of the Java Trench – not the east as was widely assumed – and that’s exactly where Victor dove.
I saw a piece of human contamination at the bottom, but it is unclear exactly what it was. It seemed to have a printed letter S on it, and was probably plastic, but we are still investigating. I did not see a plastic grocery bag or sweets wrappers.