Excerpt from The Guardian

It is a place that has been visited by fewer people than have flown to the moon – pitch black, 11km down, the last frontier.

Last month, Nicole Yamase became the first Pacific Islander, the third woman, and, at 29, the second-youngest person to visit Challenger Deep, the deepest known part of the Mariana Trench.

The roughly 50km-long, 6km-wide Challenger Deep lies within the territorial waters of Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and FSM president David Panuelo said it was “fitting that a Micronesian has finally seen the bottom of the Challenger Deep”, adding that Yamase’s work was “awe-inspiring in its importance and breathtaking in its beauty”.

Yamase took personal mementoes into the submersible for the 10-hour mission, which took her nearly 11km below the ocean’s surface. They included the FSM flag, a traditional mwaramwar cowry shell necklace, and a small model wooden canoe, a gift from her father and symbol of her navigator heritage.

She said the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore the depths of the ocean that sustained her ancestors, made her feel more connected to her culture and appreciate the complementary nature of science and traditional knowledge.

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