History had been made – again – in the Mariana Trench, the deepest point in our ocean, located in the western Pacific about 1,400 miles south of Japan. Renowned film director and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence James Cameron has entered the record books as the third person ever to descend the nearly seven miles to the bottom of the trench. This is a place so deep that if Mount Everest were dropped into its deepest part, its peak would still be more than a mile underwater.
Cameron’s journey of discovery highlights the unique marine life and extraordinary geological features found in the trench and its surrounding islands and waters – a place deemed so special that it was protected by U.S. President George W. Bush in 2009 as part of the Mariana Trench National Marine Monument. At the time, this was the largest act of marine conservation in history.
For two years before the official designation, the Pew Environment Group’s Global Ocean Legacy project and Friends of the Monument, a local group organized to promote the Mariana monument, helped sponsor more than 100 public meetings; secure more than 6,000 signatures citing the positive benefits of the marine monument for conservation, tourism, education, and research; and win virtually unanimous support from the business community. Pew also developed the first comprehensive scientific profile of the biological and geological resources contained within the proposed monument site, plus an assessment of the potential economic benefits of such a designation to the Mariana Islands' economy.
Now, with Cameron’s dramatic journey, more attention is being paid to the importance not only of this deep-sea monument, but also to all of the unique habitats of our oceans and why we must continue to explore – and protect – these special places.