UOG welcomes back to shore the first Pacific Islander to reach the deepest point of the ocean

University of Guam President Thomas W. Krise, along with representatives from UOG Sea Grant and Guam EPSCoR, greeted Nicole Yamase on her return from the deepest known point in the world’s oceans on March 13, 2021, at the Port Authority of Guam.

Yamase, a native of Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia and a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Hawai’i, made history the week of March 8, 2021, as the first Pacific Islander to descend to the ocean’s deepest known point — the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench.

Yamase’s voyage took place in the Limiting Factor, a commercial deep-submergence vehicle that holds the record for the deepest manned descent in the Challenger Deep. The full dive took 10 hours and reached 35,764 feet below sea level.

“This expedition was not only an opportunity to conduct science but also an opportunity to share my culture with the world,” Yamase said.

For her trip, Yamase brought two FSM flags along with a small wooden canoe in honor of her ancestors.

In addition to the UOG teams, Yamase was welcomed to shore by Port Authority General Manager Rory Respicio and representatives from the Micronesia Conservation Trust and The Micronesia Challenge.

As a recipient of the Bill Raynor Micronesia Challenge Scholarship, which is awarded through Micronesia Conservation Trust, Yamase was asked by the Micronesia Conservation Trust to represent the FSM on this voyage.

After departing on March 8 for a 30-hour journey to the Mariana Trench aboard the research vessel Pressure Drop, Yamase dove in the Limiting Factor, the world’s only private submersible capable of reaching “full ocean depth” of 36,000 feet. The vehicle, a Triton Submarines 36000/2, was piloted by Victor Vescovo, a world record holder, researcher, scientist, and adventurer.

“It was an honor to be there for Nicole when she returned to land and celebrate her historic accomplishment,” said Austin Shelton, director of UOG Sea Grant and a board member of the Micronesia Conservation Trust. “I’m so thankful and excited for all the new Micronesian marine scientists she is surely inspiring.”

Yamase’s research focuses on the effects of climate change on the marine plant community to help predict the future health of coral reefs. Yamase has now returned back to Hawaii to continue her doctoral studies.

In the past, the UOG Marine Laboratory has collaborated on voyages to the Mariana Trench, most notably on James Cameron’s National Geographic and Rolex Deepsea Challenger expedition in 2012.

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