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Journey to the Third Deepest Point on Earth

Dr. Deo Florence L. Onda is the first Filipino to reach the Emden Deep, the third deepest point on earth. Here’s how it happened.

Story by
Winona Sigue

On March 23, far out in the open sea, marine scientist Dr. Deo Florence L. Onda emerged from a submersible, raising the Philippine flag. It was history in the making. He has become the first Filipino—and one of the first humans—to reach the Emden Deep, the third deepest point on earth.

The journey began when Dr. Onda, an associate professor and microbial oceanographer from the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute, was invited by Caladan Oceanic to join the Emden Deep Expedition set from March 22 to 28, 2021.

From the port of Guam, the expedition team sailed to the Philippine Trench on board the DSSV Pressure Drop, the only marine vessel in the world that can carry humans to the deepest parts of the ocean by way of the deep-sea submersible DSV Limiting Factor.

Here’s a quick recap of the events that happened during the historic deep dive mission:

March 23 - The First Descent

At 7:00 a.m. on March 23, Dr. Onda starts his descent towards the Emden Deep, aboard the DSV Limiting Factor. He is joined by American undersea explorer Victor Vescovo. 

At 10:43 a.m., the pair touchdown at 10,045 meters deep.

Before ascending to the surface, Dr. Onda and Vescovo wave the Philippine flag at the bottom of the trench and spend three hours exploring the area before going up the western ridge. It takes them another four hours to head back to the main ship.

By 5:22 p.m., the DSV Limiting Factor reaches the surface. 

March 24  

The next day, Dr. Onda posts a message on Facebook, highlighting the bigger purpose of the journey. He dedicates his achievement to the country and to Filipinos who continue to work hard every day. 

“[This journey] is about us, as a people, aspiring for a better nation,” he said. “The Emden Deep is a symbol of the depth of our aspirations and the greatness of our dreams.”

Dr. Onda also reveals in a separate post the black statement shirt he wore during the descent, which features a map of the Philippines and the phrase “Atin ang Pinas.” Like many marine scientists, Dr. Onda has been vocal about calling for the protection of our marine territory, including the West Philippine Sea and the Benham Rise.

The team is expected return to the Port of Guam on March 28, concluding the week-long expedition.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Deo Onda's Facebook page.