Detour: Megalodon - As Above, So Below - Mariana's Trench TAP TO GET PODCAST
This week, we’re taking a detour to a place where few men, or women, have set sight on. We’re taking a plunge into the deep waters of Mariana’s Trench to see what life lives in Earth’s deepest places or maybe catch a glimpse of a prehistoric relic that’s survived the test of time.
I’m Elaine, and you’re touring Cryptids Across the Atlas.
An Introduction to Oceanic Exploration
Whether it’s maiden voyages off into the unknown, accidental discoveries from taking an alternative route, or decades of researching life’s strangest anomalies, Humans have always had a knack for curiosity. No question too big or too small has ever stopped us. We will dedicate our entire lives to trying to answer life’s biggest questions, like finding the cure to cancer, what’s on the other side of black holes, or is it really possible to travel through space and time?
Potentially one of the lesser-known discoveries of all might just be what lies resting on the floor of the earth’s deepest places. While oceans cover about 71% of the Earth, we know very little of what inhabits the depths of the darkest seas. With more than 80% of our oceans having yet to be studied or mapped, it’s no wonder we’re still trying to explore these vast waters millenniums later. Though, no matter how far we’ve come or how much research we’ve accumulated, it seems that far too often, we have more questions than answers.
And what question could possibly be one of the literal deepest questions of all? – What lies in the depths of Mariana’s Trench?
Just how deep is Mariana’s Trench?
Deep and dark places make the best hiding spots for things we can’t explain or things we thought long gone, but before we get into what might be hiding in the depths of Mariana’s Trench, we must first give context to its vastness by comparing it to another one of Earth’s incredible features.
Throughout documented history, several thousand men and women from all over the world have successfully hiked the top of Mount Everest. In comparison, not many people have explored the depths of Mariana’s Trench. 12 to be exact, the first being in 1960 and the most recent being in 2020. Which is a far cry from the several thousand climbing to the tallest peak on Earth. Given this incredible height and what the Nepalese call, Sagamartha, or “Goddess of the Sky,” Earth’s deepest waters run far deeper than our mountains do high.
With over 36,000 feet, Mariana’s Trench is the deepest known location on Earth, with its deepest point of the seabed named the ‘Challenger Deep.’ With a name like that, it’s quite the challenge to take it all in. Imagine if you were to submerge all of Mount Everest underwater, its peak would still be several thousand feet below sea level.
So what do we know about Mariana’s Trench? What lies below her deepest waters? Well, legend has it, that’s up for interpretation.
The Voyage to the Bottom of Mariana’s Trench… and What was FoundNot only is Mariana’s Trench considered the deepest, darkest place on Earth, it’s also known as the deadliest. Given its freezing temperatures and bone-crushing water pressure, it’s hard to fathom any living creature could be lurking below. But for Oceanographer Jacques Piccard and former US Navy Lieutenant John Walsh, we might have gotten to the bottom of one of Earth’s greatest mysteries.
The Voyage to the Bottom of Mariana’s Trench… and What was Found
Starting the new year off with making headlines, the first ever manned mission set off to discover what lies below. In 1960, Piccard and Walsh hopped inside the submersible named Trieste as they journeyed through the unknown. Plunging through thousands of feet below, Piccard and Walsh found themselves full of curiosity and excitement as they endured nearly five hours of sinking deeper and deeper. Going where no man had gone before, I’m sure there was a bit of adrenaline and slight trepidation mixed in as well.
After what seemed an entire day’s worth of work, they finally found themselves at the bed of the seafloor. While they had been the first two men to ever successfully reach the bottom of Mariana’s Trench, they weren’t alone.
Looking out Trieste’s windows that separated these two men from the water surrounding them, that’s when Piccard discovered what they had been hoping for all along. Against all the odds of freezing temperatures, intense water pressure, and where sunlight had never touched, there swimming amongst them was the first documented living creature in Mariana’s Trench. Although seeing a flatfish at the bottom of the ocean may not be a huge surprise for you and me, for Piccard and Walsh, it was a major victory. They marveled at their discovery and labeled this journey a major success.
There was only one problem, though. Something we hear all too often. There was no way to prove their findings. Due to the silt from the seafloor blocking their ability to take any photos of this lifeform, Piccard and Walsh had no way of sharing this incredible news. But that didn’t stop their efforts. No, this was only the beginning of deep water expeditions and theories of sea legends to come.
A Modern Understanding of What Lies in Mariana’s Trench
Over the decades, we have discovered many more fish species that live at the bottom of the ocean. While we now know various types of fish and bacteria that live at the bottom of Mariana’s Trench, we still don’t know everything. Though, the things we do know are what nightmares are made of.
Let’s start with the “Osedax” zombie worms or “bone-eaters” in Latin. These carnivorous worms can eat the bones of whale carcasses from the inside out. Or perhaps we can discuss the frilled shark. This shark has an eel-like body varying from dark grey and brown in color and has nearly 60 teeth. If that doesn’t terrify you, I don’t know what does.
As terrifying as these beings might be, it’s pretty fascinating to know that nearly 60 years ago, we didn’t even know what existed below. And while we now know these creatures exist, there is still far more that we don’t. If creatures like zombie worms or frilled sharks can exist, what else could possibly be in the deepest pit on earth?
Modern Megalodon: Myth or Monster?
If you’re familiar with tales about underwater cryptids, then you’re probably familiar with the largest shark that ever lived: the Megalodon. Ranging from 33 to nearly 60 feet long, this massive beast is nearly three times the size of a great white shark. Not to mention the rows of teeth coming out to be just below 300, megalodons seemed to be one of the most powerful predators that ever lived.
If you ask most scientists today, they believe that the Megalodon went extinct over 2.6 million years ago due to global cooling. But if you ask any cryptid-enthusiast, there are still those that theorize Megalodons still roam Earth’s deepest waters. They just got better at hiding over time. Hiding in very deep places, if you catch my drift.
In the late 2000s, Japanese researchers sent their own equipment down into the waters of Suruga Bay. Just a mile north of Mariana’s Trench, these researchers wanted to know what all lurked in the depths but what they saw made them realize they may have bitten off more than they could chew. As they lowered their small bait cage, it wasn’t long before they had company. When they looked at their monitors, they were amazed at what they saw. Nearing 50 feet long with a mouth stacked to the brim with razor-sharp teeth, this was not what anyone expected to witness. Could this be the Megalodon that supposedly went extinct millions of years ago? To these researchers, that seemed to be the case.
Possible Modern Megalodon Explanations
Experts across Japan were stunned and unsure of what to make of this beast. But many skeptics and scientists alike have a different explanation. Many theorize this was only just a massive sleeper shark, while others believe this was just a simple hoax. But there are those who still believe that this aquatic creature was none other than a Megalodon scouring for his next big meal.
For those who spend time exploring the highest mountains and the deepest oceans, it’s easy to admit that we don’t have all of the answers. From otherworldly to prehistoric, our rational mind attempts to explain what we don’t understand. But there are some things that we experience every day. Things that we understand all too well. And often, even more than those creatures hidden in the shadows, these are the things that should terrify us to our bones.
Because perhaps the scariest discovery lurking at the bottom of Mariana’s Trench isn’t Megalodons or zombie worms. The thing that should scare you the most about the deepest, darkest place in our entire planet’s oceans is the disposable utensils and abandoned candy wrappers we found at the bottom. Which just goes to show that sometimes the scariest and most destructive monsters of all are sometimes us.
“10 Strange Animals in the Mariana Trench” https://oceaninfo.com/list/mariana-trench-animals/
“Mariana Trench” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mariana_Trench
“The Mariana Trench: Earth’s Deepest Place” https://www.nationalgeographic.org/activity/mariana-trench-deepest-place-earth/
“The Mariana Trench” http://www.deepseachallenge.com/the-expedition/mariana-trench/
Possible Megalodon in Mariana trench https://www.unexplained-mysteries.com/forum/topic/19412-possible-megalodon-in-mariana-trench/
“Does the Megalodon Share Live in the Mariana Trench”https://exemplore.com/cryptids/Does-the-Megalodon-Shark-Live-in-the-Mariana-Trench
“The Mariana Trench: Mysteries, The Monster, And The New Sound We Found” https://historydaily.org/mariana-trench-facts-stories-trivia
“What Lurks in the Mariana’s Trench” https://creepypasta.fandom.com/wiki/What_Lurks_in_Marianas_Trench
“The Mariana Trench” http://www.samsaraparchment.com/spooky-saturday-the-mariana-trench/
“Strange Creatures in the Mariana Trench” https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/see/story/68950/8-strange-creatures-in-the-mariana-trench
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Thanks for touring Cryptids Across the Atlas. Until next time, keep your eyes open. You never know what you might see just on the edge of the road.