Taiwanese-American Lin Ying-Tsong (林穎聰) last month became the first person from Asia and the 12th in human history to dive into the deepest part on Earth, the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench.
Lin, 45, an expert in deep sea acoustics with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts, joined US adventurer and Caladan Oceanic founder Victor Vescovo, 54, on June 22 in a descent to the central pool of the Challenger Deep, the deepest point of the trench, which lies at a depth of more than 10,900m.
The pair made the descent in a submersible named Limiting Factor, a US$37 million two-seater commissioned by Vescovo from Triton Submarines.
Photo courtesy of Michael P. Moore
Unlike astronauts who have to wear a spacesuit, they did not experience significant changes of atmosphere, temperature or humidity in the submersible, Lin said in a telephone interview with the Taipei Times on Tuesday last week, after he returned to Massachusetts.
Inside the submersible’s capsule the pressure was kept at one standard atmospheric pressure, while the temperature dropped from about 28 ° C to 20 ° C during the dive and climb, he said, adding that the dive and the return climb took a total of 10 hours.
There are three windows in the capsule, and when looking out from the window beneath their feet, he felt as if he was doing a “seawalk,” Lin said.
Photo courtesy of Caladan Oceanic
The ocean bottom appeared to be an otherworldly desert of deadly gray, where only limited species, such as amphipods, can survive the extreme conditions, he said.
When ascending to the surface, he saw, from the depth of nearly 300m, sunlight gradually extend into a carpet of radiance that brought all colors back, he said, describing the scene as a “sunrise in ocean.”
Maintaining the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the capsule was a matter of life and death, so Vescovo, who was piloting the craft, had to regularly check that oxygen was evenly released, Lin said.
The submersible was equipped with an oxygen reserve sufficient to last two passengers for four days.
Lin’s descent was part of the Caladan Oceanic’s Ring of Fire expedition that began last month, which also included dives by former NASA astronaut Kathy Sullivan — the first US woman to complete a spacewalk — and Kelly Walsh — the son of Don Walsh, the first person to descend to the Challenger Deep, in 1960.
Asked how he got involved in the team, Lin said he received an e-mail invitation from Vescovo, whom he had not met before, in late May after he returned from a cruise to measure underwater acoustics for an offshore wind farm project.
While Vescovo reportedly has opened some dive slots for paying customers, Lin said his descent was sponsored by Vescovo.
“I must have done something noble in my former life, such as saving millions of lives, to have the opportunity to join the team,” he said, still sounding excited by his adventure.
“Because he is an expert in deep ocean acoustics, measurement, and tracking, Dr Lin’s involvement in the expedition was important in advancing further exploration and understanding of how sound waves propagate in the deepest parts of the ocean,” Caladan Oceanic said in a press release.
“I was also happy to make the descent with the first person from Taiwan in a first for that country — and continent — since I strongly support the special US-Taiwan relationship,” Vescovo, a former US Navy commander, said in the statement.
Using the submersible and the company’s support ship the Pressure Drop, Lin conducted a series of acoustics experiments in the week of his dive, including surveying ambient sound and acoustic signals with a hydrophone recorder provided by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The surveys aim to advance understanding about how sounds propagate and refract in different ocean layers and how the derived coefficients can be applied to estimate the geological components of seabed, Lin said.
He said he had been impressed by how quiet the ocean could be.
The deep sea’s ambient sound only measured 55 decibels when there was no container ship passing by, as the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced ship traffic, he said.
Lin also admired the teamwork of the expedition team, which has concrete scientific goals, including mapping the sea floors and collecting biological and geological samples at the bottom of the Challenger Deep.
“I feel home here [the expedition] like at WHOI, because we are all team players, no individuals, no pointing fingers,” Lin wrote on Facebook on June 27.
Lin obtained his master’s and doctoral degrees from National Taiwan University’s engineering science and ocean engineering department, and then went to Woods Hole to conduct postdoc research, but stayed on after finishing his research project and is now a tenured associate scientist at the institute, where his work has won him several awards.
He said that he has benefited from decades-long Taiwan-US collaboration in ocean research and now he serves as a bridge to sustain the ties from his vantage point at one of the world’s top ocean research institutions.
Lin said that Taiwan’s government should lend more support to ocean sciences and promote public education about the oceans, while scientists from different backgrounds should strengthen their collaborative efforts.
“Taiwan is a maritime country” should be more than just a slogan, he said.
A strong nation is bolstered by its sea power, which could be enhanced by boosting ocean research capacity, he added.
Proposed legislation in the US outlines three conditions in which Washington would be authorized to protect Taiwan were China to invade, a report said yesterday. US Representative Ted Yoho this month said he would introduce a Taiwan Invasion Prevention Act, which would authorize US military force if China were to invade Taiwan-controlled areas, including its outlying islands. According to a version of the bill obtained by the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the sister paper of the Taipei Times), the bill lists three conditions in which a US president would be authorized to use military force to protect Taiwan: If China uses military force
Two new commuter trains are scheduled to be launched in January next year, the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) said yesterday. The acquisition of EMU-900 commuter train cars is part of the railway operator’s plan to replace 589 train cars that have been in operation for more than three decades. The agency has also placed orders to buy 600 intercity train cars. The first batch of 20 EMU-900 cars is to be delivered to the nation in September, although delivery might be delayed until October due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency said. The batch would be formed into two trains of 10
The Supreme Court on Tuesday found four men guilty of attempted murder in the 2017 stabbing of Spanish surfer Ignacio Prio on a Pingtung County beach in the final ruling in the case, sentencing them to three-and-a-half to six years in prison. The defendants had appealed their convictions for attempted murder in the first and second rulings, which had also led to prison sentences ranging from three-and-a-half years to six years. The then-42-year-old Prio went to Jialeshui Beach (佳樂水) near Kenting (墾丁) on March 31, 2017, was attacked after he asked four men to remove their fishing lines from an area
MEDICINAL HERB: The FRIL protein extracted from hyacinth beans helped laboratory mice survive H1N1 infection and effectively neutralized the coronavirus A protein isolated from hyacinth beans, a medicinal herb known for centuries, has been found to restrict the activities of SARS-CoV-2 and influenza viruses in laboratory experiments, a team of Academia Sinica researchers said yesterday. The beans’ curative effect is documented in the 16th-century Chinese medicine classic Compendium of Materia Medica (本草綱目) and they are also a food source in some countries, the Genomics Research Center’s Chemical Biology Division Director Alex Ma (馬徹) told a news conference in Taipei. Center senior research specialist Jan Jia-tsrong (詹家琮) experimented with up to 500 medicinal herbs to see if they could restrict influenza viruses and