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What's the Deepest Dive?

What are the deepest dives and world record of depth?

The Deepest Dives: Ever wondered how deep any creature can dive or live underwater?

This week, we will talk about the deepest dive records any man (from divers to explorers), animals (from birds to fishes) and device (from robots to submersibles) has made in history.

Deepest Dives and Depth Records

Deepest Dives between 0 1000 Metres

40 Metres Deep

Our record starts with the Pearl Divers at 40 meters (131 feet). Pearl divers dive down to collect pearls from oysters, mussels, and other mollusks from the bottoms of oceans, lakes, and rivers. Pearl divers free dive for up to 2 minutes on a single breath. Before the 20th century, pearl divers have to manually obtain a large number of pearl oysters or mussels from the ocean floor, lakes, or river bottoms. The lack of technology to aid the divers while diving down at such depths expose them to unpredictable dangers, like shark attacks. In Asia, pearl divers cover their bodies with grease to conserve heat, cover their ears with greased cotton, and use a tortoise-shell clip to close their nose. To descend with minimal effort, they grip to a heavy object, like a rock, while carrying a wide-mouthed net or basket to hold the oysters. In the Philippines, large pearls are found in the Sulu Archipelago. Pearls from the Sulu Archipelago were considered the finest in the world. The largest pearls retrieved by the pearl divers often belong to the sultan (leader of the tribe) and to sell them would result in the death penalty for the seller. Now, the pearl industry produces billions of pearls every year through cultured pearl farms, replacing the traditional pearl diving. Pearl diving still exists today in countries like the Philippines and Japan. Ama divers, female Japanese divers, now dive primarily for the tourist industry.

210 Metres Deep

At more than 100 meters, Thick-Billed Murres go hunting for fishes, squids, and crustaceans. These arctic birds adapt better to diving in the coldest water of the Northern Hemisphere than to flying. As they land on water, they stay afloat like ducks before diving down for a meal. One bird was recorded to have dived at 210 meters (688 feet), setting the deepest dive record for Thick-Billed Murres.

253.2 Metres Deep

Known as the deepest man on Earth, Herbert Nitsch is the current freediving world record champion with a world record dive in 2012 at 253.2 meters (831 feet). At the cost of this achievement though, he contracted extreme decompression sickness on his ascent and had to undergo months of rehabilitation. Decompression sickness, also known as the bends, is a condition caused by a rapid decrease of pressure in air or water, resulting in the formation of nitrogen bubbles in the body's tissues. This condition is more common to scuba divers and may cause pain in the muscles and joints, cramping, nausea and paralysis. Months after recovery, Nitsch is back on the water again. Nothing can stop Nitsch from doing what he loves- freediving.

274 Metres Deep

One of the most extreme diving mammals is the killer whale. Also known as Orcas, killer whales are not whales but are actually in the dolphins' branch. These marine mammals feed on sea lions and walruses, but also dive down at an average of 100 meters for more food. The deepest dive record for an Orca is 274 meters (900 feet).

300 Metres Deep

Next on the list is another species of dolphin. Bottlenose Dolphins are not known to be deep divers. Because they only feed on fish, squids, shrimps, mollusks, and cuttlefish, they stay on shallow waters when hunting. The deepest dive for their kind, however, is at 300 meters (990 feet) by Tuffy, a dolphin trained by the US Navy. These smart and friendly creatures mostly stay and travel near the surface where they can come up for air.

332.35 Metres Deep

Defeating the deepest recorded depths of Orcas and Dolphins, comes Ahmed Gabr. Gabr holds a Guinness World Record for the deepest scuba diving in history. It took approximately 12 minutes for Ahmed to reach his record depth of 332.35 meters (1,090 feet) down the Red Sea in Egypt and nearly 15 hours to go back to the surface. Ahmed's dive broke the previous mark of 318.25 meters (1,044 feet) by Nuno Gomes back in 2005.

535 Metres Deep

Most birds are magnificent in flight, but the Emperor Penguins can't relate to that. These flightless birds are the best at swimming. Emperor Penguins, the largest of all the penguins, can dive down to 535 meters (1,755 feet). Their structured hemoglobin (iron and oxygen-binding protein found in the blood that transports oxygen) allow them to function at low oxygen levels. Their solid bones reduce their chances of decompression sickness, and their ability to lower their metabolism and shut-down non-essential organs allow them to dive up to 18 minutes. Emperor Penguins are also experts in surviving the harshest winter in Antarctica.

600 Metres Deep

Another local from Antarctica, the Weddel Seals, can dive up to 600 meters (1,968 feet) to breed, hunt and live most of their lives underwater. The seals can remain submerged for an hour because of the myoglobin (iron and oxygen-binding protein found in the muscle tissue that stores oxygen) present in their bodies. Their diet consists of fish, bottom-feeding prawns, crustaceans, and cephalopods. Weddel Seals only come up and out of ice holes to take oxygen, feed their young, or take a rest.

647 Metres Deep

Whales, the biggest of the marine animals, are conquerors of the deep. Beluga whales can dive at depths between 400 meters (1, 312 feet) and 647 meters (2,122 feet) below sea level, but wild Beluga whales can even go further. Beluga whales are smart and sociable like dolphins. Adult Belugas are pale white, and males can grow up to 5.5 meters (18 feet). Beluga Whales are residents to cold waters of the Arctic. Belugas use their large, melon-like head for echolocation and are the only whales that can bend their necks to look around without having to move their body.

700 Metres Deep

At depths beyond the dive records of Orcas and penguins, a man can survive inside Atmospheric Diving Suits (ADS). ADS are one-person submersibles that resemble suits of armor and are primarily used for scientific research in deep dives of up to 700 meters (2,300 feet) for several hours. There is no risk of decompression sickness, no need for special gas mixtures, and the divers do not need to be skilled swimmers. In October 2000, the Sea Wasp, a remotely-operated vehicle (ROV), managed the deepest on-bottom repair on an underwater pipeline at the Mariner Energy Pluto Field in the Gulf of Mexico.

701 Metres Deep

A meter below, Theo Mavrostomos tested a new hydreliox (hydrogen-oxygen) breathing mixture during a dive simulation in a high-pressure chamber. Mavrostomos was one of three divers in an experiment for the French company called Comex on November 18 1992, Marseille (France), but had to temporary stop the operation because the divers were suffering from fatigue and insomnia. Two days later, Mavrostomos resumed the mission and spent two hours at 701 meters.

830 Metres Deep

The deepest diving operational submarine is the Project 949A Antey (NATO Codename Oscar II) class. Its test depth is 830 meters (2,723 feet), and functional depth is at 500 meters (1,640 feet). It is the largest submarine ever constructed. Military submarines initially specialized in anti-surface ship warfare, but have evolved to take on additional roles.

1 000 Metres Deep

Deepest Dives between 1000 3000 Metres

Known as the Cheetas of the Deep Sea, Pilot whales can dive up to 1000 meters (3,280 feet) to hunt for large squids. Pilot whales are actually dolphins and are the largest members of the dolphin family. They travel in pods with a leader or a pilot, hence their name Pilot Whales. They are closely larger like the killer whales or Orcas. Pilot Whales have two species, the long-finned pilot whales, and the short-finned pilot whales. Both belong to the same category but are very much different. Long-finned pilot whales prefer colder waters and are more populous than short-finned whales. Short-finned whales prefer warmer waters like the Indian, Pacific and the Atlantic Ocean.

1 175 Metres Deep

Giant squids are the source of so many legends that their estimated diving depths may be legendary as well. They are found lurking and feeding on smaller squids at a depth of 1175 meters (3,855 ft). Their only known predators are sperm whales and sometimes, pilot whales. To locate these mysterious massive creatures, scientists have to observe sperm whales. The largest found giant squid measured 18 meters (59 feet) in length and 900 kg (1,984 lb) in weight. Several giant squids are captured on film after accidentally being caught along the fish they were feeding on. These creatures become ferocious when attacked by a predator, in which they attach their big suckers lined with small sharp teeth to grip on to the predator to defend and escape. This is evident on scars found on sperm whales and other deep-diving whales. Little is known of their behavior underwater because they are hard to study and observe, as most of them die when caught and brought to the surface. The level of light and pressure at the depth where they live also limits scientists and researchers to study them for long periods of time. If you want to learn more about giant squids, we wrote a whole article about them!

1 280 Metres Deep

Leatherback turtles are the largest surviving turtles and the fourth-heaviest reptile! As their name suggests, their shell is made up of toughened skin rather than a bony shell. Scientists have recorded their dive at depths of 1280 meters (4,200 feet) while following the daily migration of daylight jellyfishes, the primary food in their diet. To cope with high levels of pressure underwater, leatherback turtles have developed several adaptations for survival. The turtles have developed the ability to regulate their body temperature regardless of surrounding water temperature, have collapsible lungs, and the ability to slow their heart rate to conserve oxygen. Like most turtles, Leatherbacks only come to the shores to lay their eggs and go back to the ocean.

1 453 Metres Deep

The Northern bottlenose whale is one of the deepest diving mammals known. Their deepest recorded dive? 1453 meters (4,767 feet). Not much is researched for this species of whales. However, Northern bottlenose whales used to be heavily hunted because of how their curiosity about vessels would bring them closer to the surface where whale hunters are waiting.

1 599 Metres Deep

Dense-beaked whales, also known as Blainville's Beaked Whales are possibly the most comprehensively documented and photographed beaked whale species. Blainville's Beaked Whales are among the longest and deepest divers of the ocean, with the deepest documented dive being 1599 meters (5,246 feet). When foraging for food though, they only reach around 800 meters (2,625 feet). Their diet mostly consists of squid, fish and other invertebrates. Their species do not migrate and often swim around in warmer oceans of Hawaii, the Bahamas, and the Society Islands.

1 777 Metres Deep

Another species of beaked whales, the Baird's Beaked Whale, has made it to the list. The Baird's Beaked Whale, also called Giant beaked whales, can dive up to 1777 meters (5,830 feet) to hunt for deep-sea fishes and cephalopods. These creatures can dive for up to one hour at such depth. They are the largest of the beaked whale species and can live up to 85 years old.

1 800 Metres Deep

Known as the gentle giants of the ocean, Whale Sharks are the biggest fish species and the third largest animals in the planet. Whale Sharks are called as such because of their massive size, like that of a whale. The deepest dive recorded of a Whale Shark is 1800 meters (5,905 feet) deep! And researchers have no idea what they do down there. Whale sharks mostly feed on plankton and fish eggs found in the surface of warm waters. These big spotted animals are the most friendly giants of the ocean. A close encounter is genuinely amazing. Some Whale Sharks, like in Oslob, Philippines, are fed every morning where tourists can see and swim with them from small boats. The Whale Sharks have become a tourist attraction for local and international visitors who have always wanted to look at the creatures up-close. Feeding the whale shark may have made them dependent on humans, but it also reduced their risk of being hunted for their fins and meat and made them ambassadors to raise awareness that their existence is vital for the environment. Ever since the Whale Sharks attracted tourists, the community's economy boosted, which helped the residents earn more than what they usually gain from fishing. The district has also made laws to protect the Whale Sharks and has created procedures to make sure the Whale Watching experience is safe for all.

1 848 Metres Deep

Another gentle giant who has made on the list of the deepest dive is the Chilean Devil Ray. Chilean Devil Rays alternate between daily deep dives and extended traveling dives. Their deepest recorded dive is 1848 meters (6,062 feet)! They are on the chase of fish and squids living at those depths, as researchers have observed. Also known as the Box Ray, these creatures are among the deepest-diving ocean animals.

2 250 Metres Deep

The largest toothed predators in the world, the Sperm Whales, have the deepest recorded dive of 2250 meters (7,380 feet) which makes them the second deepest diving marine mammal. Sperm Whales are the largest known toothed whales in the ocean. Sperm whales travel and feed in groups. They use echolocation and vocalization to hunt in the deep and dark depths for giant squids. Some Sperm whales found have giant squid sucker marks on their skin indicating that these whales have wrestled with their giant preys. Researchers who are looking for giant squids usually track down Sperm whales because they are the only animals who know where to find them. Sperm whales also feed on octopuses and large fish, but nothing beats their hunger for giant squids. Like the Weddel Seals, Sperm whales contain an enormous amount of myoglobin (the protein that stores oxygen on the muscle tissues) and hemoglobin (the protein that carries oxygen within the red blood cells) that enables them to partake in deep dives. Sperm whales also have flexible ribcages to allow them to collapse their lungs and reduce the absorption of nitrogen.

2 388 Metres Deep

Elephant Seal species can hold their breath for more than 100 minutes which is truly impressive. The deepest depth record for Elephant Seals is 2388 meters (7,835 feet), done by a Southern Elephant Seal. They dive for one reason only, food. Their diet consists of deep-dwelling animals such as rays, skates, octopus, large fish, and squid. They can dive at such depths because their body holds a high volume of blood and an increased amount of myoglobin (protein that stores oxygen). These allow them to store more oxygen in their body and muscles. Elephant seals also have thick blubbers to protect them from cold temperatures at such depths.

2 992 Metres Deep

At this depth, little light can penetrate the water (although for human eyes it's totally pitch black), and the pressure is immensely extreme, but that is nothing for the world's deepest diving mammal: The Cuvier's Beaked Whale. These marine mammals can hunt and withstand crushing pressure and heavy darkness at 2000 meters (6,562 feet) below the surface. Their deepest dive record is 2992 meters (9,816 feet) for 2 hours and 17 minutes, which makes them the deepest and longest marine divers in the world. Like Sperm Whales, Cuvier Beaked whales dive at such depths for squid and deep-sea fish. Cuvier's Beaked whales are hard to study because they usually stay at deep depths and shy away from boats when coming up for air at the surface. The challenge for mammals at such dives is to store oxygen and withstand the pressure while hunting. Deep-dwelling whales have developed capabilities for these conditions. Whales can store oxygen in their blood and muscles and have high levels of myoglobin and hemoglobin, proteins that store oxygen in the blood and muscles. This also gives their blood and muscles a deep crimson red color, almost appearing black. Cuvier's Beaked Whales can fold down their rib cages to decrease buoyancy and reduce air pockets while diving.

3 000 Metres Deep

The C-Researcher 2 is the deepest-diving private submarine on the market. This two-seater submarine can dive down to 3000 meters (9,843 feet) deep for up to 18 hours! With the C-Researcher submarine, scientists and curious deep-sea explorers can now dive deep enough to survey deep-diving marine mammals and possibly discover unknown marine life.

3 800 Metres Deep

Deepest Dives between 3000 11000 Metres

The most iconic shipwreck in history, the 'unsinkable' Titanic, can be found at 3800 meters (12467 feet) deep. Dr. Robert Ballard discovered the Titanic's remains as the result of a top-secret military mission for two wrecked nuclear submarines. The discovery led to more expeditions to investigate the wreck and what's left of it. Despite the high pressure and cold temperature of the water and deterioration of the ship, a total of 28 species were found. These species include sea anemones, crabs, starfish, shrimp and rattail fish up to one meter (3 feet) long. Explorers have found a previously unknown type of sea cucumber and a newly discovered species of a rust-eating bacterium named, Halomonas titanicae. This bacteria is found all over the wreck and is the cause of the rapid decay of the ship. Several plans and proposals have been raised to attempt retrieving the whole shipwreck, or what's left of it, back to the surface. Many ideas have been studied ranging from filling the wreck with ping-pong balls to using 500 000 tonnes (~ 550,000 tons) of liquid nitrogen to encase it inside a giant iceberg and let it float back to the surface. But, the ship is far too frail to be raised and is now under the protection of a UNESCO convention.

8 076 Metres Deep

Just when most believe that all species of fish cease to exist at the deep depths of the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean, a species of snailfish was recently discovered living in the dark. The pressure at this depth would be like an elephant standing on your thumb, but that is nothing to the Mariana Snailfish or the Pseudoliparis swirei, which lives at the range of 6198 to 8076 meters (20,335 – 26,496 feet) below the surface. These pale, tadpole-like fishes feed on shrimp, deep-dwelling crustaceans, and other invertebrate animals. At this depth and harsh environment, the Mariana Snailfishes are the top predators. Not much is known of the fish due to its fragility when brought to the surface and the costs of diving down at such depths. Although it is extreme for us, the Mariana Snailfish are happy to be living under such conditions.

10 902 Metres Deep

Humans will never run out of curiosity for what lies deep below. Continued research and related studies, as well as discoveries, are made every day; the only problem is how to reach what's unknown in the very deep. In 2009, the Nereus robototic vehicle was born. The Nereus was the deepest diving robot with a record set at 10902 meters (35,768 ft) until it imploded at a depth of 9900 meters (32,480 feet) during a dive in the Kermadec Trench on 2014. It was one of the only four submersibles to have reached the deepest part of the Mariana Trench. Nereus' task was to explore large areas, capture videos, and pictures, and collect samples from small areas on the ocean floor. Ever since the tragic loss, scientists never built another robot like Nereus again and preferred to spend funds on less risky projects.

10 908 Metres Deep

On March 2012, director and National Geographic explorer-in-residence, James Cameron piloted the Deepsea Challenger and had successfully reached Challenger Deep, the deepest known point on Earth. The Deepsea Challenger is a custom-built deep-diving submersible that is constructed as a science platform. It was designed to take pictures and videos and get samples from the seafloor, unlike the first deep-diving submersible, the Bathyscaphe Trieste, in 1960. James Cameron was the first to make a solo dive to Challenger Deep aboard a submersible. It took two hours and 37 minutes to descend to 10908 meters (35,787 feet) deep. One of the sub's robotic arm wore a Rolex watch, similar to the Rolex watch brought during the Trieste mission, which continued to function normally despite increasing pressure underwater. The exploration at the bottom lasted for 3 hours, enough to collect images, videos, and data from the seafloor, until multiple functions of the submersible started to malfunction. The mission was a success in reaching Challenger Deep, but more importantly, it holds a significant breakthrough in Science. The Deepsea Challenger's expedition continues to provide enough data for research about the deepest part of the ocean.

10 911 Metres Deep

The deepest dive ever made until recently, defeating deep-diving animals and submersibles on this list, goes to Bathyscaphe Trieste. The Trieste was the first to have ever reached the Challenger Deep and holds the record for the deepest dive ever since. It is also the first manned vehicle to have reached the bottom of the Challenger Deep at 10911 meters (35,797 feet). On the 23rd of January 1960, oceanographer Jacques Piccard and US Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh successfully achieved the goal of Project Nekton, a series of deep-submergence operations in the Pacific Ocean. Trieste is made up of a float chamber filled with gasoline for buoyancy and a separate pressure sphere just enough room for two people. The pressure sphere provided complete independent life support with a closed-circuit rebreather system similar to that used in modern spacecraft and spacesuits. It took 4 hours and 47 minutes for them to reach the bottom, where they stayed for less than 20 minutes until one of the outer window panes cracked, shaking the entire vessel. Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh have claimed to see flatfish at the bottom, but it has later been questioned because of lack of evidence. They did not have the tools to take pictures while at the bottom. Even if the mission had no valid data to provide of what was at the bottom of Challenger Deep, the expedition holds one of the greatest historical milestones for mankind.

10 928 Metres Deep

The deepest dive ever made as of today! Victor Vescovo is actually holding the world record of the deepest dive ever made in the ocean. With its submersible the DSV Limiting Factor(DSV stands for Deep Submergence Vehicle), Victor Vescovo went down to near 11 kilometres deep at 10 927.994 Metres (35,853 feet, near 7 miles) to be exact.
Like this type of deep record, it was made in the Mariana Trench. The Mariana Trench is the deepest place on Earth and is situated in the Pacific ocean.
You will read in the news that Vistor Vescovo saw a plastic bag at the bottom of the Marian Trench. Because will always cross-check our sources, today we prefer to cite
Victor Vescovo:

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.
This depth record was made the April 28th 2019 at the bottom of the "Challenger Deep" in the Mariana Trench.

What we Know about Depth in seas and Oceans

What is living deeper in the ocean is still as mysterious as what lies beyond our planet. After all, only 5% of the ocean is explored, and the rest is still unknown to us.

What we do know is that the sea offers more than just mysteries for our curious minds, but also an understanding to our planet's future; that's why it's very important to take care of the ocean, Earth's last frontier.

Deepest Dives Researches and References

First of All, World Record Numbers are often disputed!
For example: Nobody has never taken a picture of a Thick-billed Murres at 210 Metres! It was measured with sonars, and even with the different sonars' precision, few records are still disputed.

  • Weddell seal maximum depth is disputed
  • Sperm whale maximum depth is disputed
  • Elephant seal maximum depth is disputed

Images we use are from Wikimedia commons and Free online photos.
Depth's scales with illustrations and montage are from Marrielle Ferrer and Patrice Laborda (and it was a long work...).

Speaking about deepest depth, do you know what's the deepest human made hole?

The deepest human made hole

Remaining of the Kola Superdeep Borehole The Kola Superdeep Borehole hold the record as the deepest borehole in the world, in terms of a straight vertical depth. The Soviet Union did it in Pechengsky District, the Kola Peninsula as a scientific drilling project. The drilling began on the 24 May 1970, using a drilling machine called Uralmash-4E.

As of September 2018, it is the deepest artificial point on Earth. It reached 12 262 meters (40,230 feet) in 1989! The project was to attempt to drill as deep as possible into the Earth's crust. The project was abandoned in 1995 due to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The hole rests in Pechengsky District, in the middle of the project's ruins.

Last, but not Least

If you would like to receive interesting content like this in your email Inbox, subscribe to our newsletter.
In addition to our monthly newsletter, we will send you our weekly e-Bulletin with one fascinating topic, like today's article above. There will be no advertising nor sales pitch.
As always we want to thank Youtube and Wikipedia commons for some amazing images and/or videos on this page!

Thanks for reading, and if you wish, see you next week!

The Research and Media Team at Scotty's.

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