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Images: Nereus Soars to the Ocean's Deepest Trench

The new deep-sea vehicle Nereus successfully reached the deepest part of the ocean on May 31, 2009—more than 4,000 meters farther than any other current deep-sea vehicle can go. First conceived in 2000 by engineers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, it took nine years to design and build. (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

The Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench is located near the island of Guam in the west Pacific. It is the deepest abyss on Earth at 11,000 meters. At that depth, pressures reach 1,100 times the pressure at the surface. (Courtesy of Karl Musser, self-made using data from NOAA)

The newly developed hybrid vehicle Nereus is launched from the research vessel Kilo Moana during a test cruise in 2007 off Hawaii. On May 31, 2009, Nereus dove to the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench. The dive makes Nereus the world’s deepest-diving vehicle and the first vehicle to explore the Mariana Trench since 1998. (Photo by Matt Heintz, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

A specialized manipulator arm of the newly built hybrid remotely operated vehicle Nereus samples sediment from the deepest part of the world's ocean—the Mariana Trench. (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)