The first Spaniard to go down to the Mariana Trench found garbage

When Hector Salvador (Lugo, 1983) descended to the bottom of the Mermaid Abyss, 10,706 meters deep, becoming the first Spaniard to descend to the Mariana Trench. Down there, inside the DSV submersible “Limiting Factor” and accompanied by the Australian co-pilot Tim Macdonald, this 37-year-old engineer felt that he had arrived in the Tartarus of the Greeks. An incredible adventure that has earned him the Trip of the Year Award, which this year was awarded to him by the Spanish Geographic Society.

Despite the desolation, that day in 2021, the pilot found living creatures, collected samples and witnessed the traces left by the garbage thrown by human beings, even at the greatest depths. We chatted with him by phone, on the occasion of World Oceans Day, whose purpose is to inform about our impact on the marine environment… and on its bottom. Salvador responds to us from his offices in Sant Cugat del Vallès (Barcelona), where he works as director of operations for the company Triton Submarines EMEA, which built the submersible.

How did you know it would go down the third deepest point in the world? “The night before,” she answers. «The submarine project to go down to the pit is very specific, it involves 12 hours of investment, you can only do one a day and they are very expensive. The bathyscaphe only has two seats. The millionaire Victor Vescobo commissioned it from us, and he did it to be the first person to go down. The deep dives were reserved for the owner. However, one of the modules got stuck at the bottom. We have to consider whether to abandon it or mount a rescue. “We decided to go down,” he says.

He was afraid? «No, because we had made the vehicle. We had been working on a submersible for 6 years. Each component had been pushed to the limit in controlled environments. The only thing was… there is no vehicle like it in the world, so there is no vehicle that can rescue you. If you get caught in a ghost net, you know no one is coming for you».

Before Salvador saw the bottom of the seabed, 12 people had walked on the surface of the Moon, but only three had descended into the pit. Since then, after each expedition, the “submarine” collects three or four new species unknown to man. «As you go down, You see beings pass through the glass that no one has ever seen.. There are huge bugs, but also very small ones. There were worms in the soil and organisms that live in an area with extreme pressure… it's called the aral zone, the underworld, the hells,” he explains.

Engineer Héctor Salvador descended into the Mariana TrenchTRITON SUBMARINES

One of the species found was Eurythenes plasticus, which was given that name. because his stomach was full of plastics. The engineer, who today continues to scrutinize the most inaccessible areas of the oceans, laments the reality: “We are already contaminating species that we don't even know about. They are studying them in the laboratory for the first time in history and they already have microplastics,” he emphasizes. And he continues: «We barely know 2% of the bed and we have already contaminated it. In the sea you cannot clean up the mistakes of the past, they will not disappear,” he claims.

He says that we usually think immediately of the floating islands of garbage that appear on the news. “But that is It's just garbage less dense than water», he describes. It's the tip of the iceberg. «We have a problem called 'ocean blindness.' Eyes that do not see, heart that does not feel », she laments.

Regarding possible solutions, he indicates that “water covers 70% of our planet and it is very difficult to go down to the bottom, so use our submersibles to collect trash It would be like using a stick to collect sand in the Sahara. “What we have to do is stop.”

He calls himself an optimist. «I believe that the solution is possible and involves education. Tell it, tell it and tell it. That is the responsibility that those of us who have seen it have,” she warns. «Now you know it too. We can educate and change society, and there will come a time when, at least, we stop littering. The first emergency is to stop.