Famous Firsts

Vanessa is the first woman to transect Challenger Deep, spending three hours of bottom time mapping the eastern pool. Challenger Deep is the deepest point on Earth, located 10,934 m (35,872 ft) below sea level at the bottom of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean.

Scientific Contribution

Vanessa contributed to science by taking water samples at 9,000 meters using a Niskin bottle on a lander after hearing about ocean acidification and the work being done at the Natural History Museum. This work was captured here in The Economist Films:


  • The Challenger Deep, at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, is the deepest point on earth.
  • It is 200 miles southwest of Guam.
  • Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands lie within US territory. *

Depth & Dimensions:

  • Challenger Deep is 10,934 m below sea level and contains three pools which measure 60 km (37 miles) long.
  • If Mt. Everest were placed in the Mariana Trench, it would still be 1 mile (2 km) underwater.

Pressure & Temperature:

  • Pressure at the bottom is 1,086 bars (17,750 psi), more than 1,000 x the standard atmospheric pressure at sea level. At this pressure, water is 5% more dense than it is at the surface of the ocean.
  • Water temperature at the bottom ranges from 1 to 4 °C (34 to 39 °F).

* Additional location information:

In political union with the United States (US)

  • Northern Mariana Islands – an organized, unincorporated Commonwealth of the US (like Puerto Rico.)
  •   Guam – an organized, unincorporated territory of the US (like the US Virgin Islands.)

Sovereign states that have a Compact of Free Association (COFA) with the US:

  • Federated States of Micronesia – established 1979, COFA effective 1986.
  • Republic of the Marshall Islands – established 1979, COFA effective 1986.
  • Republic of Palau – established 1981, COFA effective 1994.

Once down below, Challenger Deep consist of 3 pools. Western, Central and Eastern, which can be seen by sonar bathymetry in the following map by Victor Vescovo. The darkest blue color represents the deepest locations and to date, the Eastern pool is where the deepest location has been found.

A diagram of where the first woman to reach Challenger Deep went to

In Memoriam

Paul Hansen (Sept 15, 1947 – May 19, 2020), Guardian Angel

Paul passed away at RJH after a brief battle with cancer. Paul was instrumental in helping Vanessa plan for her dive, which was difficult for many reasons, not least of all Covid-19. Vanessa dedicated her Challenger Deep dive to Paul Hansen, who passed away before the dive took place.  She wore a Canadian Submariners Dolphins Badge on her dive suit in Paul’s honour and decorated a Styrofoam cup with a picture of his badge.

Paul was born in Yellowknife and raised in Calgary.  As a young boy, he contacted polio (1953), but eventually recovered. After an active childhood, he joined the navy on his 17th birthday, spending half of his nine years in submarine service on HMCS Grilse and Rainbow. He was a volunteer firefighter and ambulance attendant and after retirement volunteered endlessly. He spent countless hours with the Submariners Association of Canada executive, for which he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal.

For Vanessa, Paul Hansen was a trusted friend and advisor who became a Guardian Angel.