UP scientist aims to be the first Filipino to reach Earth’s third deepest spot

Published March 17, 2021, 9:02 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz

Microbial oceanographer Dr. Deo Florence L. Onda is set to make history as the first Filipino to reach the third deepest spot on Earth located in the Philippine Trench, called the Emden Deep.

Dr. Deo Florence L. Onda

Onda started his voyage from the port of Guam to the Philippine Trench, while onboard the DSSV Pressure Drop last March 15.

DSSV Pressure Drop is the only marine vessel in the world capable of launching the deep-sea submersible DSV Limiting Factor that can carry humans and repeatedly dive to the deepest parts in the world’s oceans.

Onda will be descending about 10,400 meters or 34,100 feet deep, along with American undersea explorer Victor Vescovo, who currently holds the record for the deepest manned descend in the Marianas Trench in 2019.

“The Philippine Trench is a unique feature found within the EEZ (exclusive economic zone) of the Philippines, and it is only appropriate that a Filipino scientist be one of the first to hold this record in the Emden Deep,” UP-MSI said in a statement on Wednesday, March 17.

It said part of the goal is to wave the Philippine flag in the Emden Deep during its record-setting voyage.

“Dr. Onda, as the sole Filipino researcher representing the country, will also be given a unique opportunity to be exposed to state-of-the-art vessels capable of deep-sea activities, which can enrich our experiences and knowledge as the Philippines builds its own National Academic Research Fleet (NARFleet), an ongoing national project funded by the Philippine government,” UP-MSI said.

“This endeavor can spark interest and passion for many other young Filipinos who would want to make a career in the sciences and bring more attention to the protection, preservation, and conservation of the Philippine marine environment,” it added.

Onda was invited by the organization Caladan Oceanic to join the Emden Deep Expedition scheduled on March 22 to 28, 2021. 

UP-MSI noted that deep sea expeditions are “equivalent to the first early flights into outer space, thus it would be a major record-setting scientific and historic achievement.”

He will be joined by Vescovo, who is also the main sponsor of Caladan Oceanic, a private organization that has been setting records for deepest manned descents in the world’s deepest trenches, with the most recent one in the Marianas in 2019.  

To date, most of these records are held by foreign scientists and explorers. 

The activity, which is in coordination with the Philippine government through the Department of Foreign Affairs, is considered a non-Marine Scientific Research undertaking.

Onda is also the Deputy Director for Research of the UP-MSI.