On Thursday, July 14, 2022, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) head Dr. Alondra Nelson and OSTP Deputy Director for Climate and Environment Dr. Jane Lubchenco spoke with Dr. Dawn Wright – who last week became the first Black person to descend to the deepest known part of the ocean on a successful mission to map the Challenger Deep ocean trench, at the southern end of the Mariana Trench off of Guam. Dr. Wright’s expedition, piloted by explorer Victor Vescovo was completed on Wednesday, July 13, 2022 (local time), successfully creating high-resolution mapping images, for the first time, of Challenger Deep.
Dr. Nelson extended congratulations on behalf of the Biden-Harris Administration and remarked on the historic nature of this mission. She also emphasized the importance of Dr. Wright’s achievement in inspiring young minds around the country to pursue scientific research and exploration. Dr. Nelson inquired about Dr. Wright’s initial impressions of the journey and the physical experience of descending so deep, and asked about the role of technology in making the descent to nearly 11,000 meters below the surface of the sea possible.
Dr. Lubchenco echoed Dr. Nelson’s congratulations and asked Dr. Wright about the physical demands of the journey to the bottom of the ocean. Dr. Lubchenco further inquired about how Dr. Wright’s expedition would expand our understanding of the ocean and the value of exploration in tackling the urgent climate crisis or advancing innovative conservation solutions. Dr. Lubchenco also sparked a conversation about the LEGO character developed in honor of Dr. Wright and new ways to engage children in ocean science.
Dr. Wright offered OSTP’s leaders greater insight into the mission’s logistics and goals, including the journey, the importance of the technology involved, and some of the challenges in mapping the ocean at depths never before attempted. She shared her excitement about the mission’s success, hope for the lessons learned, and possible implications for a greater understanding and stewardship of the ocean.
The group closed the call by reflecting on the importance of the moment for Black Americans, the need for more work to inspire the next generation of ocean scientists, and emphasized the crucial nature of ocean-based solutions to the climate crisis.