What's On Our Radar

The First Filipino To Reach the Third Deepest Spot on Earth

Dr. Deo Florence L. Onda is set to make history as one of the first humans to reach the Emden Deep.

Story by
Winona Sigue

DSSV Pressure Drop and DSV Limiting Factor images from Triton Submarines.

Much has been said about the Philippines as an archipelago, surrounded as we are by large bodies of water. But not much is known about the creatures that dwell deep beneath our seas. One of these days, a Filipino scientist might just change that.

Dr. Deo Florence L. Onda, a microbial oceanographer from the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UP MSI), is joining the Emden Deep Expedition that began yesterday, March 22, until next week, March 28.

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

Located in the Philippine trench, the Emden Deep is considered to be the third deepest spot on earth. At approximately 10,400 meters, that’s equivalent to about three and a half Mt. Apos stacked on top of each other.

According to the UP MSI, modern deep sea expeditions are equivalent to early flights into outer space, making this trip “a record-setting scientific and historic” achievement. With more than 80 percent of the ocean still uncharted, deep sea explorations pave the way for the discovery of strange, otherworldly creatures and biological processes that can only unfold thousands of feet underwater.

“For Filipinos, [this expedition] is important [for us] to know the extent of our heritage, territory, and marine heritage,” Dr. Onda tells GRID Magazine. He adds that understanding the ocean also means understanding its deepest areas, not only its surface.

“I hope it will spark interest in Filipinos to appreciate more the extent of our marine heritage, the marine environment.” <callout-alt-author>DR. DEO L. ONDA<callout-alt-author></callout-alt-author></callout-alt-author>

“It’s hard to protect, fight [for], and appreciate something that we have not seen, something that we have not experienced,” he says. “By getting some evidence that it actually exists, it’s going to be easier for most Filipinos to appreciate it more.”

To conduct this expedition, Dr. Onda will board the DSV Limiting Factor, a two-man, deep-sea submersible that can dive as deep as 11,000 meters (or 36,000 feet). He is joined by American undersea explorer Victor Vescovo, who holds the record for the deepest manned descent in the Marianas Trench in 2019.

Dr. Onda and Vescovo started their descent towards the Emden Deep as of 6 a.m. today. The trip is expected to take 12 hours to complete, including waving the Philippine flag at the Emden Deep and heading back to the main ship, the DSSV Pressure Drop.

In a country, where the majority of its people depend on the sea for livelihood, recreation, and tourism, deep sea explorations can help push for a greater appreciation of our oceans. Exploring where no human has ever set foot generates new knowledge that could aid in scientific breakthroughs in the future.

“I hope it will spark interest in Filipinos to appreciate the extent of our marine heritage and the marine environment,” Dr. Onda says. “And also [to encourage them] more in studying the oceans, including the deepest parts of our country, which is the Philippine Trench.”

According to the official Facebook page for the expedition, Dr. Onda landed at his destination—10,400 meters deep—earlier today.

For more updates, follow their Facebook page here.

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