Watches & JewelleryPartenariat

Victor Vescovo: “Exploring the Abyss is Essential to Adapt Our Climate Models”

Cristina D’Agostino

By Cristina D’Agostino31 août 2023

Holder of the "Explorer's Grand Slam," Victor Vescovo stands as the sole adventurer to have scaled the world's highest peaks and plunged into the ocean's abysses, including the secretive Mariana Trench. Bearing witness to rare discoveries and the perils of pollution in these remote zones, he elucidates, in a digital roundtable organized by his partner OMEGA, the technological advancements yet to be pursued for the sake of continued exploration.

The Triton submarine designed by Victor Vescovo and his team to carry out the Five Deeps exploratory mission, five dives into the deepest trenches of the oceans (OMEGA)

Victor Vescovo, a former officer and commander in the U.S. Navy and a wealthy businessman specialized in private equity, is one of the few to have tasted the euphoria of summits as well as the depths of the seas. Dubbed the "Elon Musk of the Abyss," he stands foremost as an explorer of all extremes.

Victor Vescovo, former officer and commander in the US Navy, holder of the "Grand Slam of Explorers" and the "Five Deeps" challenge, is the man who broke the record for the deepest dive to a depth of 10,935 metres with his submarine Triton. He is supported by the OMEGA brand, of which he is an ambassador. (Pierre Mouton. OMEGA)

Already having claimed the "Explorer's Grand Slam" in 2017 by conquering the highest peak on each continent (the "Seven Summits"), including Everest, and skiing at least 100 kilometers to both the North and South Poles, he was compelled to achieve the ultimate challenge: diving into the ocean's greatest depths. This feat, known as the Five Deeps Expedition, was accomplished in 2019. This unprecedented undertaking aimed to explore the deepest point recorded in each of the planet's five oceans. However, this expedition was not intended solely as a Guinness World Record pursuit. Victor Vescovo transformed it into a genuine technological adventure. Collaborating with Triton Submarines, he spent over four years developing a submarine capable of withstanding pressures up to a thousand times those at the Earth's surface. Named the "Limiting Factor," this submarine enabled Victor Vescovo and his crew to reach the deepest trenches on Earth: the Puerto Rico Trench at 8,376 meters (Atlantic Ocean), the South Sandwich Trench at 7,434 meters (Southern Ocean), the Java Trench at 7,192 meters (Indian Ocean), the fabled Challenger Deep – Mariana Trench at 10,934 meters (Pacific Ocean), and the Molloy Deep at 5,552 meters (Arctic Ocean).

Throughout numerous dives, he bore witness to dozens of species previously unknown to science. From the deepest recorded vertebrate fish, found in the Izu-Ogasawara Trench (Japan) at 8,300 meters, to the most abyssal jellyfish documented at 10,063 meters (a Trachymedusa), and even the discovery of a wreck nearly 7 kilometers deep, the USS Samuel B Roberts in the depths of the Pacific Ocean, Victor Vescovo's adventures know no bounds.

The Seamaster Planet Ocean Ultra Deep Professional, strapped to the lander's arm, has been tested several times at depths of 15,000 metres (OMEGA)

During a digital conference presented by OMEGA to celebrate the new Seamaster Summer Blue models, he shared with a select group of journalists last July what fuels his passion and compels him to push the boundaries of the possible. Despite self-funding all his expeditions and the accompanying technological innovations, Victor Vescovo emphasized the excellent rapport he maintains with his sole sponsor, OMEGA. He regards the Seamaster Planet Ocean Ultra Deep Professional model, specifically developed by the watchmaker for these abyssal dives, as an essential instrument for every plunge and vital in case of emergency signals onboard. Victor Vescovo candidly offered insights into the emotions an abyssal explorer experiences at the deepest depths.

What motivates you to continue exploring the abyssal depths despite achieving all these records?

71% of the world's surface is made up of oceans, 75% of which have not yet been mapped (Shutterstock)

71% of the Earth's surface is composed of oceans, of which 75% remain unmapped. Among those that are mapped, only 5% have truly been explored. This implies that 50% of the Earth's surface remains unknown. Some might argue this lack of knowledge holds little significance, yet I can assure you that no part of these oceans resembles another. Personally diving into 17 oceanic fissures and deep trenches, each site possesses unique characteristics and specific evolutionary and biological features. Oceans wield a crucial influence on the planet's system, particularly its capacity to sequester carbon. However, we remain ignorant about the ocean's depths due to the scarcity of measuring instruments designed to withstand such depths. We believe that most climate models are incomplete until they fully incorporate oceanic data. This data needs to be collected. A single statistic underscores this point: most oceans plunge to 6,000 meters in depth. Given that they cover 71% of the globe, the average surface point on Earth lies at 4,000 meters deep. This is a mathematical reality. The conditions defining Earth's norm are found there, and yet, we know nearly nothing about it. It is for these reasons that I remain fervently passionate about underwater exploration. We are not only developing submarines, but also instruments capable of settling at the ocean floor and analyzing ecosystems. This accessibility renders them safer for others wishing to continue oceanic exploration. This is what drives me.

Diving into the 7,434 m deep South Sandwich Trench in the Southern Ocean in February 2019 (The Five Deeps Expedition)

Could you share some incredible creatures you've encountered at such profound depths?

With every dive, we unearth new species. This isn't surprising since no one has ventured to these depths as frequently as we have – to places isolated for millions of years. Sadly, even at these extreme depths, we encounter evidence of pollution in the form of microplastics, everywhere we go. This forms part of my commitment to these missions. Bearing witness and highlighting that we can no longer tolerate plastic culminating in the ocean. When plastic reaches the ocean, it remains there indefinitely.

In terms of creatures, the most astounding species emerged in the Java Trench. One of our scientific landers rested at the bottom, filming the depths. Suddenly, a creature appeared, heading directly for the camera. It was utterly bizarre as it seemed to inspect the device, perhaps attracted by the light it likely had never encountered before. Then it turned sideways. This species had a bulbous head akin to a jellyfish, but with the shape of a dog's head, and it trailed a long line with what appeared to be a small pouch at its end, holding something else… We watched this unfold on our screens. We were incredulous and captivated. We had never seen such an alien-like being. Once again, exploring at these depths equates to delving into the unknown, much like space exploration. What we found there is likely more akin to what we could discover on other planets. In fact, some are now initiating ice ocean exploration on other moons beyond our own, like those of Jupiter or Saturn. Drilling will commence, as we believe conditions conducive to life exist there. I think we could find the first tangible evidence of life beyond Earth in these distant frozen oceans.

Could you elaborate on your connection with OMEGA?

The new Seamaster Ultra Deep model launched in Mykonos this summer by OMEGA (OMEGA)

I didn't initiate my collaboration with OMEGA to fund my expeditions since they're always self-financed. This approach maintains control, aligns with my objectives, and propels innovation at my preferred pace, securely. This aspect led me to connect with the brand. One of DNV's (the independent expert in assurance and risk management) safety requirements is to have an analog watch onboard a deep-sea submarine. This serves two purposes: depth measurement and emergency scenarios. It's absolutely critical to generate precise sounds at regular intervals – an indicator that humans are alive in a distressed submarine. As I commenced preparing my five submarine expeditions, I required an accurate watch. I visited an OMEGA boutique in Dallas and acquired a Seamaster. Thus, I descended to the ocean's depths wearing it. I reached out to OMEGA, and I was able to meet with their team. Soon after, OMEGA sought to collaborate with me on a model capable of withstanding extreme depths, up to 11,000 meters. Thus, the Seamaster Planet Ocean Ultra Deep Professional was born and even underwent testing at depths of up to 15,000 meters! During the lander's dive accompanying the submarine, one of the three watches was affixed to the device's arm. It turned out that this instrument became stuck at the bottom for two days before we could retrieve it with the submarine. Remarkably, it continued to function perfectly when resurfaced!

How do you envision the future of your expeditions?

Today, I have sold my diving system to Gabe Newell, who continues scientific dives with this system worldwide. I am not a marine scientist but a technician. My role is to advance technological innovations so that they can be utilized worldwide. I'm currently designing the next generation of submarines to enhance the limiting factors of depth. People often ask me what I can improve upon. You can always do something better. Technologies inevitably evolve to become more reliable, precise, and secure. That's what captivates me. The mishap with Titan that occurred at the Titanic site is not a deterrent nor does it undermine abyssal expeditions, even though I lost two friends there. To innovate, one must adhere to the strict, recognized safety standards of the international community. When executed and monitored meticulously, each dive is an authentic marvel.

En partenariat avec OMEGA

Partager l'article

Continuez votre lecture

During the 1950s, free spirits conquered watchmaking
Watches & Jewellery

During the 1950s, free spirits conquered watchmaking

After the war, humanity is entitled to dream again. Technological discoveries accompany great expeditions. Watchmaking then invents Tool watches, capable of resisting extreme conditions. Our summer series “A time a watch” continues and explores the fifties.

By Cristina D’Agostino



Soyez prévenu·e des dernières publications et analyses.

    Conçu par Antistatique