Depths of Water Pollution and Human Impact

Most of our Earth is covered by water. The deepest known part is the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana trench, and this remote place should now be seen as a warning that all our water is being threatened by pollution.

The Mariana Trench extends 36,000 feet, or nearly 7 miles below the surface of the earth. If the earth's tallest mountain, Everest, was placed at the bottom, There would still be a mile of water above.

I would have considered this remote, hidden away place as one of the safest from water pollution, but scientist have found high levels of pollution and contamination. This study was conducted by biologist, Alan Jamieson, of Newcastle University in England and his team. They recently explored the trench by deploying a Mechanical “lander” and making observations with camera, baited traps, and by taking water samples. The team collected species which were contaminated by PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and other industrial pollutants. These were used between the 1930s and 1970s, and do not break down very quickly. It is possible that these chemicals are from industrial use in the pacific northwest or radiation from the Fukushima daichi nuclear disaster.

These toxic chemicals were used for decades and have reached these great depths through gravity and the food chain. The trench does not have much water flowing, so these chemical will continue to build up. The trench is home to a variety of life, including: deep-sea sailfish, amoebas, and glowing jellyfish. Pollutants of crustaceans found were said to be 50 times that of crabs in the most polluted river of chain.

Finding pollution at these depths and remote location really illustrates the reaches of pollution and human impact. The ocean may be thought of as pristine and safe, but these levels and findings show the long-term and devastating impact that humans can have to the earth. This pollution was caused indirectly, as a result of our industry. This impact will be impossible to reverse, so it also shows why it is important to consider how our actions can affect the environment.

Sources and further reading:
Brady, Heather. “Deepest Place on Earth Contains 'Extraordinary' Pollution Levels.” National Geographic, National Geographic Society, 17 Feb. 2017,

Joyce, Christopher. “Pollution Has Worked Its Way Down To The World's Deepest Waters.” NPR, NPR, 13 Feb. 2017,

Image from National Geographic. Photograph by Schimdt Ocean Institute