On July 18th, 2022, history was made. Former President Maderngebuked and Explorer Victor Vescovo as pilot, descended 8,040 meters (26,377.95 feet) in the Palau Trench, becoming the first humans to ever descend to the bottom. Inside the Limiting Factor submarine, owned by Vescovo, the two men spent 8 hours – 3 hours descending, 2 hours exploring, and 3 hours ascending.
. The duo was aboard the DSSV Pressure Drop ship on an expedition led and coordinated by expedition leader Rob McCallum, founder of EYOS Expeditions. Former President Maderngebuked now holds the world record for being the first of two people to descend to the bottom of the Palau Trench. Of the journey, he shared, “The dive showed me that there are living organisms down deep that have not been properly recorded with so much still to be discovered. The deep is very much a part of the ocean surface and we need to respect and ensure the totality of the marine resources co-exists for humankind and the generations to come”.
The Palau Trench is approximately 27 nautical miles off the eastern coast of Koror. The dive covered a distance of 4 kilometers (4.34 miles) along the seafloor starting from 7°48N and ending at 134°59E. Former President Maderngebuked and Vescovo saw jellyfish, sea worms, starfish, large boulders and very sadly, some plastic waste, during their journey. Accompanying the submarine were two research landers, Closp and Flere, who spent time collecting ocean data. Data will be analyzed, and findings shared with researchers and the people of Palau. In reflection of their journey, Vescovo said “It was such a tremendous honor to make the first human descent of the Palau trench with not just a citizen of the country, but Former President Remengesau. We were able to explore together this unseen world right off the coast of Palau and begin the process of international science collaboration to uncover its mysteries and hopefully spark new interest in the deepest parts of their waters.”
On board as witness to this historical event were both Yapese Traditional Master Navigator, Sesario Sewralur and Micronesian scientist Nicole Yamase. On July 14th, 2022, Sewralur along with Vescovo became the first two humans to descend to the bottom of the Yap Trench. On March 11th, 2021, Yamase became the first Pacific Islander to descend to the Challenger Deep, the deepest place on earth inside the Mariana Trench in the territorial waters of the Federated States of Micronesia. “His canoe represented our ancestors that have crossed these oceans over thousands of years. We’re very fortunate that we are now able to discover what is below the surface. I hope that our new generations will continue to explore our waters and protect it from harmful activities,” said Sewralur who teaches traditional navigation at the Palau Community College. Yamase, who studies marine plants, commented that “Former President Remengesau’s dive has added new depth to what it means to be an ocean champion. I hope his dive will inspire the hearts and minds of our youth across the region. There is nothing too big for us to accomplish as Micronesians”.
The importance of this journey to the deepest place in Palau and the other dives across Micronesia, cannot be understated. We know about the parts of the ocean we are familiar with but the importance of the ecosystem that exists where light is hard to come by is just as important to the future of our people and for humankind. Research such as that made possible through Vescovo’s generosity and the incredible dedication of his team will inform our understanding and inspire us to continue to work to protect all corners of our world, even the deepest most unknown depths.
Mr. Vescovo is a Managing Partner and Co-Founder of Insight Equity. In 2020, he piloted history’s deepest ever submarine dive in the Pacific’s Mariana Trench, was the first person to do it repeatedly – now fifteen times, and in August 2019 became the first person to visit “The Five Deeps,” the deepest point in all five of the world’s oceans. He is also the first person to dive the five deepest points anywhere in the world’s oceans, has made three dives to the Titanic including the only solo dive ever made there, and completed the deepest wreck dive in history at the site of the USS Johnston in early 2021. He is also a commercially rated multi-engine jet and helicopter pilot, a certified submersible test pilot, and recently flew into space on Blue Origin’s NS-21 mission.