The Red Bulletin September 2019 (UK)

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Equipment

Victor Vescovo knows a

thing or two about daring

exploits. The 53-year-old

Texan is an former naval

officer, aviator and submarine

test pilot. He’s completed the

Explorers’ Grand Slam – scaling

the highest peaks on all seven

continents, and skiing to both

Poles – and in April this year he

descended to the deepest seabed

on Earth: the Challenger Deep

in the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana

Trench. And he did it four times.

At 10,994m below sea level,

the floor of the Challenger Deep

is more than 2km deeper than

Everest is tall, with an atmospheric

pressure more than 1,000 times

greater than at the surface. “It’s

an incredibly hostile place,” says

Vescovo. “No submarine had ever

gone to the bottom more than

once. I wondered what it’d take

to construct a submersible that

could do it repeatedly and reliably.”

The answer is around $35million

(£28m) – the cost of his two-seater

submersible, DSV Limiting Factor.

Vescovo self-funded its

construction for his Five Deeps

Expedition, a mission to reach

the deepest points of each of

the five oceans. “I wasn’t even

considering sponsorships.

I wanted total control,” says the

multimillionaire, who’s also a

successful Wall Street trader. But

when Swiss watchmaker Omega

saw that he was wearing one of its

Ocean Seamaster watches on his

first dive into the Puerto Rican

Trench in the Atlantic, it wanted

in. The company’s plan: to build

a watch to withstand the same

external pressures as Limiting

Factor. To do so, it used offcuts of

the vessel’s Grade 5 titanium hull.

Three watches were sent

down to the Challenger Deep with

Vescovo: two strapped to the

robot arms of Limiting Factor and

another attached to one of his

three detachable landers. As he

reached the record-breaking

depth of 10,928m, Vescovo gazed

upon terrain never before seen

by human eyes. “People think

the bottom of the trenches are

barren moonscapes, but within

10 minutes I saw a transparent

holothurian – a sea cucumber

– undulating gently on the sea

floor; 16,000 pounds per square

inch of pressure, just above

freezing, and here was life.”

Twelve hours after Vescovo

began his descent, Limiting Factor

broke the surface, its hull intact

and ready for three more dives

the following week. “I would die in

that submersible if it had not been

built perfectly – pressure will find

a weak point,” he says. “It’s the

same for the watches.” All three

survived their mission in pristine

condition (see opposite).

For once, Vescovo was happy

to accept sponsorship. “Omega is

keeping two of the watches,” he

says, smiling. “I’m keeping one.”

FIVE DEEPS EXPEDITION, OMEGA SA TOM GUISE CHRISTINA LOCK

76 THE RED BULLETIN

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