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How Deep can a Submarine go?

How deep of a depth can a Submarine go? Is there certain pressure constraints that don't allow them to go beyond a certain depth in the ocean?
November 14, 2012


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The Marianas Trench located in the Western Pacific is known to have the world’s deepest ocean floor. In this trench lies the deepest point of the earth’s oceanic crust, just about some hundred miles east of the Philippines - the Challenger Deep. It has a depth of 36,200 feet or 11,034 meters. If Mount Everest measures 29, 026 ft. or 8,848 m then Challenger Deep is 7,175 ft. or 2,186 m taller if you look at it as a mountain. At this depth, the water pressure is over 1000 atmospheres but deep sea creatures are still able to live; the floor is also covered with “diatomaceous ooze.”

The Challenger Deep was discovered in 1951 by the British survey ship Challenger II, which basically explains how it gets its name. The United States, not only up for the outer space race but also for the space beneath, sent the Trieste in 1960. Trieste is a bathyscaphe or a small submarine funded by the US Navy to reach the darkest and deepest point of the earth. On board the Trieste were U.S. Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh and Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard.

In order to endure too much pressure a thousand miles below, the Trieste’s pressure sphere was built with 6.5 ft. (2.16 m) across and 5 inches (12.7cm) steel walls. Adding the iron pellets, it was intentionally designed to weigh 8 metric tons in water so it would sink easily. After completing the exploration, iron pellets were then detached and the buoyant gasoline floats were then used to bring the bathyscaphe up.

In terms of diving capabilities, the best American nuclear submarines called the Seawolf class can withstand pressure better that the Trieste. The Trieste was designed for exploration though not really to make regular trips down. Furthermore, the real steel under was the expensive Soviet nuclear powered attack submarine K-278 Komsomolets. Compared to the Seawolf class submarines, Kosmomolets had an estimated 78% better diving capabilities. However, the fire that broke out in its certain compartment caused the vessel to sink in 1989 killing 42 of its crewmembers.

After the Trieste exploration, it was only in March 2012 that another manned ocean dive was accomplished. It was piloted alone by the renowned film director James Cameron via the Deepsea Challenger submarine. The record breaking descent took only 2 hours and 36 minutes compared to the Trieste’s which took almost 5 hours.

How deep a submarine can go will depend what’s the deepest point there is to go. Mankind will never stop discovering unknown places and things for the sake of knowledge, race or whatever benefit there is.

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