Several Wikipedia articles, (Bathyscaphe, Trieste and Challenger Deep), about the 1960 Bathyscaphe Trieste trip to Challenger Deep, the deepest part of the Mariana trench, mention observations of lifeforms on the deep sea floor:
- "The bathyscaphe was equipped with a powerful light, which illuminated a small flounder-like fish,"
- "some type of flatfish, resembling a sole, about 1 foot long and 6 inches across"
- "While on the bottom, Piccard and Walsh observed a number of small sole and flounder swimming away," (uncited)
These observations have been challenged because these types of fish are not believed to be able to survive at the cited depth. The video footage from the more recent Kaikō ROV and the autonomous Nereus HROV did not see any fish.
However, to date humans have only been able to survey a tiny percentage of the trench, which means it might be premature to preclude the existence of fish at that depth. To date, the world's deepest video footage of a fish was filmed at a depth of 7,703 meters.
- This YouTube video, titled "Megalodon sighted in Mariana Trench", does not link to any scientific publication, nor does it state the depth at which the video was taken.
A second quote reinforces the accusation that the crew could not have plausibly seen the marine lifeforms (emphasis added):
... Their early departure from the ocean floor was due to their concern over a crack in the window caused by the intense pressure of their descent, and also because their landing on the sea bed had stirred up a cloud of silt which reduced visibility to zero and showed no sign of settling.
For reference, there is a video from Nereus HROV showing what stirring and settling could mean at the floor of the Challenger Deep.
Finally, the depth of the Challenger Deep had been measured to the same ballpark figure nearly a decade ago: (with the understanding of depth variations within the trench)
In 1951, ... the entire Mariana Trench was surveyed by a second Royal Navy vessel, ... also named HMS Challenger, after the original expedition ship. ... A depth of 10,900 m was measured.
My question is: Were those fish claims misattributed, or misquoted? (Wikipedia included.) If so, can we trace it to the original words from the Trieste crew and the source of the mistake?
- Misquote: the juxtaposition of several phrases that are taken out of context.
For example, (i) a flatfish seen during the descent and (ii) an observation of the cloud of silt at the sea floor could be taken out of context to mean (iii) a flatfish seen at the sea floor and (iv) a cloud of silt seen during the descent.
- Misattribution: the phrases were quoted from a person not part of the Trieste crew, and thus cannot be taken as eyewitness testimony.
To assist in the search for the original source, here is the citation. The reference URL on the Wikipedia article has been broken. (Copied from a Google search result - restrictions may apply.)
- Ref Type: Journal Article
- Authors: Heppenheimer, TA
- Year: 1992
- Title: To the bottom of the sea
- Journal: American Heritage of Invention & Technology
- Volume: 8
- Issue: 1
- Pages: 28-38
- ISSN: 8756-7296