National Geographic : 1958 Mar
Harold E. Edgerton Photographs of the Romanche Trench Pass Under the Magnifying Glass The Edgerton photographs, studied by outstanding oceanographers and biologists, have given priceless information on the topography and life of the sea's lower regions. Here they are examined by Dr. Henry B. Bigelow, Professor Emeritus of Zoology at Harvard University and former Director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Dr. Edgerton stands by. usually interesting" .. then warm to a reck less "extremely great importance" and even an awed "we are amazed." What elicits such comment? The first pic ture reveals an ocean bottom of granular texture. Here we see pebbles worn smooth by the emery of time; but here, too, are angular fragments of rock-chips and chunks, perhaps of basalt with corners still sharp, guesses one geologist. They and the finer material remind another scientist of debris found in gullies of the Rocky Mountains. Irregular cracks strike across this bit of ocean floor, rocky layering, ledges visible even to minute fissures (page 382). The slight blur-here-was it caused by the jarring of the camera upon the rock-strewn bottom? And why are these outcroppings not covered by the thick sedimentation so often 388 found at the bottom of the sea? Photographs gain added importance from features they do not record. Is the ocean floor scoured clean by cur rents? Most improbable at this depth. After all, we see no ripple marks. Possibly un dersea landslides account for the terraces. Or could it be solifluction, a slow, downward creeping of wet soil, common on land in arctic regions but rarely attributed to sub marine earth? Life Abundant 4'/2 Miles Down Our evidence and speculation lead us fur ther. Is the trench geologically new? Per haps. This small patch of bottom, illumined by a strobe's fleet flash for but a moment in all history, poses a riddle on the flux of con tinents and seas.