Safety and conservation at the deepest place on Earth: A call for prohibiting the deliberate discarding of nondegradable umbilicals from deep-sea exploration vehicles

Victor L. Vescovo, Alan J. Jamieson, Patrick Lahey, Rob McCallum, Heather A. Stewart, Casey Machado

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Exploration vehicles can introduce vast quantities of single-use, plastic-coated tether that have been deliberately discarded as observed at the deepest site of all Earth's oceans. Manned submersible dives to Challenger Deep (10,925 m deep) in the Mariana Trench in 2019 and 2020 revealed hundreds of metres of yellow and white tether strewn across the seafloor. Due to its composition, these fibre-optic tethers will not only persist environmentally, but form a significant risk to equipment and life should unmanned and manned craft become entangled. As a result, the site of the iconic first descent to the deepest place on Earth by Piccard and Walsh in 1960 is unlikely to be safely explored again if this practise continues.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104463
JournalMarine Policy
Volume128
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes

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