The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Record-Breaking Diver Finds Plastic Bag in Deepest Part of Ocean
An America man completed the deepest-ever solo underwater dive May 1. But when he reached the bottom of the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench, he found that another representative of the human world had gotten there first: plastic.
Vescovo made the trip as part of his Five Deeps expedition, which is being filmed by the Discovery Channel. The 53-year-old financier and retired naval officer is conducting detailed sonar maps of the deepest parts of the ocean. Trips to the Atlantic Ocean's Puerto Rico Trench, the South Atlantic's South Sandwich Trench and the Java Trench in the Indian Ocean have already been completed. The details of the Mariana Trench trip were just released Monday. Finally, Vescovo will explore the Arctic's Molloy Deep this August.
"I criss-crossed all over the bottom looking for different wildlife, potentially unique geological formations or rocks, man-made objects, and yes, trying to see if there was an even deeper location than where the Trieste went all the way back in 1960," Vescovo told CNN of his most recent trip. (The Trieste was the first submersible to explore the Challenger Deep.)
In addition to the plastic, Vescovo's team think they have discovered four new species of prawn-like crustaceans, BBC News reported. However, the scientists plan to test if the animals collected have already encountered humanity in the form of microplastics. A 2017 study found microplastics in crustaceans in six of the deepest parts of the ocean, including the Mariana Trench.
Vescovo isn't the first to find plastic at the bottom of the ocean's deepest trench. A 2018 paper documented at least 3,000 pieces of litter in the trench, including a plastic bag at 36,000 feet below sea level. At least eight million tons of plastic enter the world's oceans every year, and, if this continues, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.
The previous record for a solo dive was held by Titanic Director James Cameron in 2012, CNN reported. In his new record-breaking trip, Vescovo and his team made five dives.
"It is almost indescribable how excited all of us are about achieving what we just did," he told BBC News."This submarine and its mother ship, along with its extraordinarily talented expedition team, took marine technology to a ridiculously higher new level by diving — rapidly and repeatedly — into the deepest, harshest, area of the ocean."
- Mariana Trench: Deepest-ever sub dive finds plastic bag - BBC News ›
- American breaks record with deepest-ever sub dive, finds plastic ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Colorado senator and 2020 hopeful Michael Bennet introduced his plan to combat climate change Monday, in the first major policy rollout of his campaign. Bennet's plan calls for the establishment of a "Climate Bank," using $1 trillion in federal spending to "catalyze" $10 trillion in private spending for the U.S. to transition entirely to net-zero emissions by 2050.
When Trump's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its replacement for the Obama-era Clean Power Plan in August 2018, its own estimates said the reduced regulations could lead to 1,400 early deaths a year from air pollution by 2030.
Now, the EPA wants to change the way it calculates the risks posed by particulate matter pollution, using a model that would lower the death toll from the new plan, The New York Times reported Monday. Five current or former EPA officials familiar with the plan told The Times that the new method would assume there is no significant health gain by lowering air pollution levels below the legal limit. However, many public health experts say that there is no safe level of particulate matter exposure, which has long been linked to heart and lung disease.
By Andrea Germanos
Animal welfare advocates are praising soon-to-be introduced legislation in the U.S. that would ban the use of wild animals in traveling circuses.
By Tara Lohan
It's been the wettest 12 months on record in the continental United States. Parts of the High Plains and Midwest are still reeling from deadly, destructive and expensive spring floods — some of which have lasted for three months.
Mounting bills from natural disasters like these have prompted renewed calls to reform the National Flood Insurance Program, which is managed by Federal Emergency Management Agency and is now $20 billion in debt.