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01Episode 1 - Discovery20120220

Rebecca Morelle reports on submersibles to travel to the deepest point of the ocean.

Explorations in the world of science.

Located in the western pacific, the Mariana Trench is the deepest part of the ocean, plunging down 11km.

Down there it's pitch black, icy cold and the pressure is immense.

The only time it was visited, was over 50 years ago by US naval lieutenant Don Walsh and Swiss engineer Jacques Picard.

Now four teams of explorers are risking their lives in a new race to the deep.

Rebecca Morelle travels to California to meet former property developer Chris Welsh who is hoping to travel by himself to the bottom of the trench in a five metre long torpedo like submarine equipped with wings and a tail fin.

Her next stop is with the Triton team, who take her for a ride under the Caribbean sea in one of their submersibles, a prototype for the vessel that will be able to travel to the Mariana Trench.

Rebecca also reports on a project being lead by James Cameron, the director of the film Titanic. And her final visit is to DOER Marine, where Liz Taylor tells her about the company’s plans to build a reusable submarine.

01Episode 1 - Discovery20120221
01Episode 1 - Discovery20120225
01Episode 1 - Discovery20120227
02Episode 2 - Discovery20120227

Rebecca Morelle reports on scientists' discoveries in the deepest parts of the oceans.

Explorations in the world of science.

Located in the western pacific, the Mariana Trench is the deepest part of the ocean, plunging down 11km.

Down there it's pitch black, icy cold and the pressure is immense.

Now explorers with funding from the private sector are planning to return to the bottom of the Trench, for the first time for over 50 years.

Rebecca Morelle meets Jim Gardner, who works for the US Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, and has just completed the most detailed survey ever of the Mariana Trench, using sonar.

Alan Jamieson, an ecologist at Oceanlab at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, uses remote controlled submersibles to study the animals and plants that live at extreme pressure in the deepest parts of the oceans.

He tells Rebecca why he believes it is preferable to deploy robots rather than humans to do this research.

Legendary marine biologist and underwater explorer, Sylvia Earle, argues that it is essential for us to visit the depths of the ocean and see the extraordinary environment with our own eyes.

As the former science chief for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA - the ocean's equivalent of NASA - Sylvia Earle says that the seas have always been the poor relation to space.

Rebecca finds out from Bill Raggio of precision glass company Rayotek in San Diego, how to build a glass sphere for Triton submarines which will stop the three-man crew from being crushed by the pressure a the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

And Sandra Brook from the Marine Conservation Biology Society talks about how research scientists may work with the commercial teams, like Triton, in the future as resources dry up for purely research submersibles.

02Episode 2 - Discovery20120228
02Episode 2 - Discovery20120303
02Episode 2 - Discovery20120305