To Inspire. To Be Inspired. – 30 Stories on HKUST Faculty, Alumni and Students

Few regions of our extraordinary planet remain a mystery, but the deepest depths of the ocean are definitely some of Earth’s most mysterious. In the pursuit of discovery, Prof. He Lisheng is descending to the deepest, darkest corners of the Earth. A beam of light from the submersible shines through the darkness; in all directions, there seems to be nothing but desolate wasteland. Then, a smooth landing. They are here. The Fendouzhe, China’s manned deepsea submersible, has travelled more than 10,000 meters down to reach the deepest known section of ocean in the world, the bottom of the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific Ocean. Sat tight inside the submersible, sharing just 1.8 meters of space, Prof. He Lisheng and her two colleagues can 121 barely contain their excitement. She has just become China’s first woman scientist to dive more than 10,000 meters deep. It has been a hard-won victory. Prof. He has dedicated her research effort to uncovering what lies at the so-called “fourth pole of the Earth.” It’s not Prof. He’s first dive into the deep-sea, but when she found herself being surrounded by a profound silence, she was remarkably stunned by the sense of mystery unique to the Mariana Trench. One of the biggest challenges of exploring Earth’s deepest ocean is pressure — huge pressure. Every additional 10 meters of depth increases hydrostatic pressure by one standard atmosphere of pressure. At 10,000 meters, on the seabed of the Mariana Trench, that’s the equivalent of 1,000 African elephants standing on a person’s back. It’s more than enough pressure to destroy most scientific research equipment and strike fear into the heart of an ocean explorer.