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Ohio businessman plans to go 35,000 feet underwater on historic dive to oceans deepest point

4 min read
https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2021/04/08/ohio-larry-connor-dive-mariana-trench-date-set-april-2021/7122098002/
Larry Connor and the team will complete their dives in the state-of-the-art full ocean depth submersible DSV  Limiting Factor.

CINCINNATI – With only nine months left until he pilots a history making mission to space, real estate investor and philanthropist Larry Connor has another groundbreaking piece of exploration to take care of. He is scheduled to make two dives to the deepest part of the ocean at more than 35,000 feet.

Connor said he plans to explore both the Challenger Deep and the Sirena Deep in the Mariana Trench, located in the Pacific Ocean near Guam, he told the Cincinnati Enquirer, part of the USA TODAY Network.

The “hadal zone,” or the area of the ocean below 20,000 feet, is considered the last frontier of exploration on Earth. “Hadal exploration” is exploration at depths beneath 20,000 feet, or 6,000 meters. 

The focus is groundbreaking scientific research that will take Connor – with the help of companies EYOS Expeditions and Caladan Oceanic – to depths of 35,856 feet and 35,150 feet respectively, using the Hadal Exploration System, the world’s only deep exploration facility.

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The two dives are tentatively scheduled for April 15 and April 17, but they are weather-condition dependent. So, they could dive earlier or later, Connor said.

Larry Connor.

From ocean depths to the ISS

Only two other people have traveled to the bottom of the Sirena Deep – Alan Jamieson and Victor Vescovo. 

Connor, the founder and CEO of The Connor Group, a real estate investment firm based in Dayton, Ohio, said Patrick Lahey will pilot the mission. Lahey, CEO and owner of Triton Submarines, has completed more than 10,000 dives and is considered the world’s most experienced submersible pilot.

The opportunity for “‘scientific discovery,” and the ability to sustain Ohio’s proclivity for innovation, research and discovery, is what motivated Connor to become part of the mission in the abyss of the ocean.

“I’m thrilled to be part of this expedition and have the opportunity to conduct valuable scientific research,” he said, noting that there is always a chance to make a discovery that has never been seen before.

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Expedition leader Rob McCallum is the primary mission planner. His team has completed more than 1,200 successful missions. Also on board for the exploration will be the master of the expedition vessel (DSSV Pressure Drop) Capt. Stuart Buckle and Jamieson, the expedition’s chief scientist.

McCallum calls the area of the dive, the last frontier of exploration on earth. 

“Connor’s mission will be a first in some respects. He will be the first to travel to the depths of both the Challenger and Sirena Deeps and then travel to the International Space Station,” McCallum said, as he spoke to the Enquirer from Guam Tuesday afternoon.

Connor is scheduled to pilot a private mission to the ISS with Houston-based Axiom Space for Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1) in 2022.

Former astronaut Kathy Sullivan and private astronaut Richard Garriott are the only others who have traveled to both space and the bottom of Earth’s deepest ocean. 

 “The exploration of our ocean has never been more important, and privately-funded science is going to be the key to unlocking the mysteries of the deep. This is the way of future exploration and science. What I like about Larry is that he wants his dives to benefit science or other people. He isn’t interested in just doing this to set a record.”

He added that the Hadal exploration system consists of a ship and the world’s only certified full ocean depth submersible.

“That means it’s the only vehicle in the world that can go to any depth in any ocean we developed it three years ago for the owner Victor Viscovo, who wanted to be to be the first man to go to the deepest point in each of the world’s five oceans,” McCallum explained

The two dives will be made in the state-of-the-art full ocean depth submersible DSV Limiting Factor.

Limiting Factor completed the Five Deeps Expedition in 2019 by successfully diving to the deepest point of each of the world’s five oceans.

It takes approximately four hours to travel to the trenches’ depths, and the crew will spend roughly four hours conducting scientific research before a four-hour ride back to the surface, according to Connor.

McCallum said that the dive is about 7 miles and the DSV Limiting Factor is equipped with 4K cameras that can light up and film in any direction.

“There are 3 viewports and they will be able to extract data later on,” he said.

The first deep dive into the Mariana Trench was recorded in 1960, as U.S. Navy Lt. Don Walsh was joined by Swiss engineer Jacques Piccard to make the mission in the Pacific Ocean.

“We didn’t have the technology to get back there until Hollywood director James Cameron did it in 2012,” McCallum said. “Jim was down there for 2 hours then we went back with Victor in 2019.” 

Follow the Cincinnati Enquirer on Twitter: @enquirer

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