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Human descends into epicenter of Japan’s devastating mega-earthquake for the first time

The ultra-deep ocean trenches of Ryukyu, Izu-Ogasawara and Japan, and the epicenter of the Great East Japan Earthquake, have been explored by humans for the first time.

A team of researchers from Caladan Oceanic & EYOS Expeditions, along with self-proclaimed ocean explorer and former US Navy officer Victor Vescovo, have completed a two-month expedition with the Japanese marine science community, exploring deep-sea trenches and the site of the earthquake.

Deep ocean trenches are long, narrow depressions on the sea floor, penetrating deeper into the crust than any other point on earth. They are formed by subduction, that is, where two tectonic plates meet and one is pushed under the other. Vescovo has now descended into 17 of the world’s 26 deep ocean trenches. The Ryukyu, Izu-Ogasawara, and Japan trenches are each about 30,000 feet deep.

The epicentres of earthquakes are also usually located at the meeting points of tectonic plates, because moving the plates against each other results in the release of seismic waves that cause earthquakes.

In this case, Vescovo and the team investigated the epicenter of the Great East Japan Earthquake, which occurred in 2011 and was the strongest earthquake ever recorded in Japan, with a magnitude of 9.0 to 9.1. The resulting tsunami caused by the underwater earthquake struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, causing three of the plant’s nuclear reactors to melt down.

The earthquake’s epicenter is located 45 miles east of the Japanese coast, at the meeting point of three tectonic plates: the Pacific, North American and Philippine Sea plates. According to Vescovo, a “triple junction” of converging tectonic plates is quite unique, as there are only two places in the world where it occurs.

“The reason we visit seismic sites is to find out why trench animals are so different from the rest of the deep sea,” Vescovo said. Pleasemynews. “A big difference between trenches and relatively open abyssal plains is that trenches are much more seismically active.

“The abyssal plains species are ancient, some over 100 years old, and they probably only spawn every few decades. If they lived in trenches where large parts of the habitat were destroyed by seismic events, the population is simply too old and ineffective to bounce back.”

Despite its incredible depth, the abyssal plain teems with life. Scientists have found 2,000 species of bacteria, 250 species of protozoa and 500 species of invertebrates living at these depths.

“We have acquired a great deal of evidence to show that trench species are generally much younger – for example, snails commonly found in trenches are typically 10-15 years old and have therefore adapted to bounce back more quickly after severe disturbance” , Vescovo said.

“Wherever we look, depth has little to do with how species live and reproduce. Other environmental factors, such as the level of seismic activity, are often more important. This is also why we return in the New Hebrides trench as a very recent dive there indicated that it had experienced a much more recent seismic event and so catching these things at different time intervals will tell us more about the level of disturbance and recovery.”

The deepest ocean trench in the world is the Mariana Trench, which descends to approximately 35,830 feet below sea level at Challenger Deep, its lowest point. It has been explored by several manned and unmanned craft, most recently on May 8, 2020, where a Russian submarine descended to 32,900 feet. These descents take a long time, about three and a half hours to go down and another three and a half hours to go back up.

“By spending two to three hours on the bottom, you can end up spending more than ten hours in the submersible on a typical research dive,” Vescovo said.

“It’s not dangerous at all. The submersible has been specifically designed to make it as absolutely safe as possible and is the first ultra-deep ocean submersible built and certified to commercial standards. This means it has been tested and approvals similar to what a commercial airliner would have.There have never been any life-threatening situations in the last four years of continuous operation of the submarine.It is extremely safe .

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