Trash found littering ocean floor in deepest-ever sub dive

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The Skaff lander floats next to the research vessel DSSV Pressure Drop above the Pacific Oceans's Mariana Trench in an undated photo released by the Discovery Channel May 13, 2019. (REUTERS)
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Undersea explorer Victor Vescovo pilots the submarine DSV Limiting Factor in the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench in an undated still image from video released by the Discovery Channel May 13, 2019. (REUTERS)
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Sea creatures swim around a part of a submersible lander, illuminated by the light of the submarine DSV Limiting Factor on the floor of the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench in an undated still image from video released by the Discovery Channel May 13, 2019. (Reuters)
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A technician checks the submarine DSV Limiting Factor aboard the research vessel DSSV Pressure Drop above the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench in an undated photo released by the Discovery Channel May 13, 2019. (REUTERS)
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An object described by a spokesperson for the Five Deeps Mariana expedition as "manmade" is illuminated at top right by the light of the submarine DSV Limiting Factor on the floor of the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench, in an undated still image from video released by the Discovery Channel May 13, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 14 May 2019
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Trash found littering ocean floor in deepest-ever sub dive

  • Vescovo found undiscovered species as he visited places no human had gone before

NEW YORK: On the deepest dive ever made by a human inside a submarine, a Texas investor and explorer found something he could have found in the gutter of nearly any street in the world: trash.
Victor Vescovo, a retired naval officer, said he made the unsettling discovery as he descended nearly 6.8 miles (35,853 feet/10,928 meters) to a point in the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench that is the deepest place on Earth. His dive went 52 feet (16 meters) lower than the previous deepest descent in the trench in 1960.
Vescovo found undiscovered species as he visited places no human had gone before. On one occasion he spent four hours on the floor of the trench, viewing sea life ranging from shrimp-like anthropods with long legs and antennae to translucent “sea pigs” similar to a sea cucumber.
He also saw angular metal or plastic objects, one with writing on it.
“It was very disappointing to see obvious human contamination of the deepest point in the ocean,” Vescovo said in an interview.
Plastic waste has reached epidemic proportions in the world’s oceans with an estimated 100 million tons dumped there to date, according to the United Nations. Scientists have found large amounts of micro plastic in the guts of deep-dwelling ocean mammals like whales.

RAISE AWARENESS
Vescovo hoped his discovery of trash in the Mariana Trench would raise awareness about dumping in the oceans and pressure governments to better enforce existing regulations, or put new ones in place.
“It’s not a big garbage collection pool, even though it’s treated as such,” Vescovo said of the worlds’ oceans.
In the last three weeks, the expedition has made four dives in the Mariana Trench in his submarine, “DSV Limiting Factor,” collecting biological and rock samples.
It was the third time humans have dived to the deepest point in the ocean, known as Challenger Deep. Canadian movie maker James Cameron was the last to visit in 2012 in his submarine, reaching a depth of 35,787 feet (10,908 meters).
Prior to Cameron’s dive, the first-ever expedition to Challenger Deep was made by the US Navy in 1960, reaching a depth of 10,912 meters


Women bring light to remote villages on islands of Zanzibar

In this undated photo provided by XPRIZE, a child in a village in the Tanga region of Tanzania learns to read from a tablet using open-sourced software that would easily be downloaded by illiterate children to teach themselves to read. (AP)
Updated 21 May 2019
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Women bring light to remote villages on islands of Zanzibar

  • Women are almost twice as likely as men to have no education, and are less likely to own a land or have access to a bank account, according to a Tanzania-wide government survey in 2016

KINYASINI, Tanzania: A s a single mother, Salama Husein Hajja was low in the pecking order in her village in Tanzania and struggling to eke out a living for her family as a farmer.
But now she hopes to gain status and a stable income after being trained as a community solar engineer for a project bringing light to scores of rural villages where no homes are connected to electricity on the islands of Zanzibar.
Grandmothers and single mothers — many of whom have never learned to read or write — are among those being trained under the program which they say could transform lives in their poor fishing and farming communities.
“We struggle a lot to get lighting,” said Hajja, 36, a vegetable farmer and mother of three children from a village on Unguja, the largest and most populated island in the Zanzibar archipelago.
“When you don’t have electricity, you can’t do many things like teaching children. It forces you to use a lamp. The smoke is harmful, the eyes and the chest are affected.
“When the electricity is there, it’s better.”
Life is challenging for women in Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania made up of numerous islands where half the population lives below the poverty line.
Women are almost twice as likely as men to have no education, and are less likely to own a land or have access to a bank account, according to a Tanzania-wide government survey in 2016.
Many poorer and rural families also lack access to electricity, compounding the challenges they face.
The island region’s entire energy grid depends on an underground cable connecting it to the mainland which was damaged in 2009, plunging it into darkness for three months.
Furthermore, only about half of houses in Zanzibar are connected to mains power, with many of the remainder forced to rely on polluting fuel lamps for light.

ROLE MODELS
“We only use a lamp inside,” said Aisha Ali Khatib, a mother of nine, training as a solar engineer alongside Hajja at the Barefoot College in Kinyasini village on Unguja.
“The lamp uses paraffin ... Buying one spoon of paraffin is 200 shillings ($0.09) but I can go for two days without making 200 shillings.”
Solar power offers solutions to connect rural villages with little prospect of getting mains power and increase resilience and sustainability.
Millions of people across sub-Saharan Africa are getting access to electricity through off-grid renewables, the International Energy Agency said last year, which forecasted strong demand to boost growth in the sector up to 2022.
The solar training scheme offered by Barefoot College, a social enterprise that began in India and is now working in East Africa, also focuses specifically on training women.
The project was designed to address the fact that women are much less able to leave their villages due to poverty and family links while also empowering women in Tanzania’s male-dominated society by offering them decently paid work.
Communities in participating villages are asked to nominate two women aged between 35 and 55 to leave their families and travel to the college to train as engineers.
Many of those chosen lack formal education, but they are recognized as people who can command authority and who are deeply embedded in the life of their villages.
“When you educate a woman, you educate a whole community,” said Fatima Juma Hajji, a solar engineer trainer at Barefoot college in Zanzibar.
“When you educate a man, he will not stay in the village, he will go away but when you educate a woman, she goes back to her village and helps improve.”
Women on the project spend five months living and training at the college, after which they return to their villages and set up solar lighting systems for their family and neighbors.
Households pay a few dollars a month for power – a cheaper option than buying paraffin or electricity from the grid.
Some of the money is used to pay the engineers a salary in return for maintaining the village’s equipment and funds raised can also be plowed back into community projects.
Women on the scheme said they had benefitted by gaining a stable income stream, and a new sense of independence and respect within their villages.
“We have been given a better life because after we leave here, we will be engineers and will go back to teach others,” said Hajja.
“When I go back I will have status. I will be knowledgeable and I will be proud.” ($1 = 2,300.0000 Tanzanian shillings) (Writing by Sonia Elks @soniaelks; Editing by Belinda Goldsmith Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change.