The deepest 45% of the ocean depth range remains one of the most unexplored and inaccessible regions on the planet. Twelve people have walked on the moon while only three people have ever been to the deepest zone in the ocean — the hadal zone.

The hadal zone, waters deeper than 3.75 miles (6000 meters), covers an area larger than the size of Texas and has pressures approaching 1100 times atmospheric pressure, at the deepest point (16,000 psi, which is equivalent to having two rhinoceros on your thumb). Very little is known about the circulation, mixing, chemical properties, and biological communities in the water of these deep ocean trenches.

This dearth of knowledge stems from a lack of suitable instrumentation with which to make observations.

With a $1.2 million award from the W.M. Keck Foundation, a team from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, along with industry partners, is on track to build a Hadal Water Column Profiler (HWCP).

This uniquely capable profiling instrument will, for the first time:

  • Enable high quality physical, chemical, and biological sampling of the water column from the sea surface to the seafloor at 11km (36,000 ft) depth.
  • Withstand hundreds of cycles in and out of hadal pressures (that is, up and down in the water column). The instrument’s ability to create frequent depth profiles will allow researchers to observe important physical and chemical changes in the ocean environment.
  • Provide observations needed to illuminate important and vexing problems, such as how the deep ocean trenches are ventilated.

UH Mānoa Chancellor David Lassner said, “HWCP will open up new, exciting, and potentially transformative avenues of research with global impact. This is a powerful example of how private support is helping propel globally relevant, leading edge UH research. We are most grateful to the W.M. Keck Foundation for the funding necessary to explore exciting new frontiers.”

This article was originally published on www.uhfoundation.org, read the original article.