Into The Abyss

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0120140716

Rebecca Morelle talks to explorers of deep ocean trenches, from film-maker James Cameron to biologists discovering dark realms of weird pink gelatinous fish and gigantic shrimps.

01The Hadal Zone2014071620140722

01The Hadal Zone2014071620140722

Rebecca Morelle talks to explorers of deep ocean trenches, from film-maker James Cameron to biologists discovering dark realms of weird pink gelatinous fish and gigantic crustaceans.

The deepest regions of the ocean lie between 6,000 and 11,000 metres. Oceanographers term this the Hadal Zone. It exists where the floor of abyss plunges into long trough-like features, known as ocean trenches. The hadal zone is the final frontier of exploration and ecological science on the planet.

At its most extreme, the water pressure rises to 1 tonne per square centimetre and the temperature drops to 1 degree C. Despite the challenging conditions, some animals survive and thrive in the trenches. Because the technical challenges to operating down there are so high, we are only now just learning what is down there and how creatures adapt to live in the extremes.

Based at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, deep sea ecologist Alan Jamieson is one of the premier explorers of life in the hadal zone. In the programme, he talks through some of the latest video footage he's acquired from the depths of the Kermadec Trench in New Zealand - not by visiting in person but by dropping cameras on a deep sea probe called a hadal lander to the distant sea floor. The images were gathered on an expedition two months ago and revealed new habits of hadal creatures.

Rebecca does talk to two people who have ventured to the far limit of the hadal zone: US Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh who went down to the bottom of Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench in 1960, and Hollywood director James Cameron who, 52 years later, repeated Walsh's voyage to 11,000 metres down.

02 LASTDeep Sea Mining2014072320140729

02 LASTDeep Sea Mining2014072320140729

Is mining the deep ocean the solution to the world's growing demand for valuable metals?

02 LASTDeep Sea Mining20140723

02 LASTDeep Sea Mining20140723

The deep ocean contains extraordinary ecosystems, full of life forms found nowhere else on the planet. Some of those same habitats are unusually rich in valuable minerals. Could we and should we mine them?

Hydrothermal vent systems are one of the deep ocean habitats which have gained the interest of mining concerns. Volcanically-heated water gushes from the sea floor. The chemically-charged water sustains unique ecosystems, the like of which aren't seen anywhere else on Earth. There are gigantic worms and clams which are nourished by bacteria within their tissues - the bacteria themselves are fuelled by chemicals in the water, in the way plants on the surface use light. There are vast swarms of blind, heat-guided shrimps.

The superheated waters are also rich in metals such as copper, silver and gold which crystallise when the hot water meets the cold ocean. Great chimneys of metallic ores and rock form in this process. The concentration of metals is typically much higher than those of terrestrial ore deposits. Mining companies are keen to exploit them if the costs of extracting them from deep beneath the waves are favourable. Given growing demand from an increasingly industrialised world, the corporations believe the profits are set to outweigh the costs. Underwater robotic bulldozers and monster sized vacuum cleaners are ready for their first deployments and operations.

Many marine biologists view these prospects with alarm. The impact of mining on hydrothermal vents and other mineral-rich deep sea habitats will destroy life in the immediate extraction areas and may cause unknown kinds and scales of damage down current and distant from mining areas. The pace of life and its rate of recovery is notoriously slow in the deep ocean. Biodiversity in this realm has barely been documented and studied.

Should we be damaging tracts of the ocean bed before we know what's there and what the wider consequences will be? On the other hand, might industrial mining deep under water be preferable environmentally and socially to mining on land where there are people as well as animals?

Rebecca Morelle and David Shukman of BBC News investigate.

Producers: Andrew Luck-Baker and Kate Stephens.

0120121022

Carol Shaben reads a report about a plane crash back in Canada with only four survivors.

Read by Barbara Barnes.

The astonishing true life adventure story of a plane crash in the wilds of northern Canada and the four men who survived to tell the tale.

On a wintry October night in 1984, nine passengers boarded a Piper Navajo commuter plane bound for remote communities in the far north of Canada. Only four people - strangers from wildly different backgrounds - survived the night that followed: the pilot, a prominent politician, an accused criminal and the rookie policeman escorting him.

The title is taken from the American mythologist Joseph Campbell who explored mankind's quest for meaning and adventure: 'It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life'.

The author, Carol Shaben, is the daughter of Larry Shaben a politician in the Alberta Legislature who survived the crash. Using extensive interviews with all the remaining survivors and their families, as well as investigation reports and court records, she reconstructs the events leading up to the fatal crash and unravels the enduring impact it had on the four survivors and the bonds they formed that night on the mountain.

Episode 1:

When Carol Shaben was starting out as a young journalist in Jerusalem, she opened the paper one day and saw a tiny report on an inside page. It briefly described a small plane crash back in Canada, only four of the ten people on board had survived. One of them was her father.

Abridged and Produced by Jill Waters

A Waters Company production for BBC Radio 4.

0220121023

Pilot Erik Vogel was not happy about flying north on the evening of 19 October 1984.

Read by Barbara Barnes.

The astonishing true life adventure story of a plane crash in the wilds of northern Canada and the four men who survived to tell the tale.

On a wintry October night in 1984, nine passengers boarded a Piper Navajo commuter plane bound for remote communities in the far north of Canada. Only four people - strangers from wildly different backgrounds - survived the night that followed: the pilot, a prominent politician, an accused criminal and the rookie policeman escorting him.

The title is taken from the American mythologist Joseph Campbell who explored mankind's quest for meaning and adventure: 'It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life'.

The author, Carol Shaben, is the daughter of Larry Shaben a politician in the Alberta Legislature who survived the crash. Using extensive interviews with all the remaining survivors and their families, as well as investigation reports and court records, she reconstructs the events leading up to the fatal crash and unravels the enduring impact it had on the four survivors and the bonds they formed that night on the mountain.

Episode 2:

Erik Vogel was the 24 year old pilot of the Piper Navajo plane and he was not at all comfortable with the idea of flying north on the evening of 19th October 1984. The small airline had been repeatedly cited for safety violations and visibility on that snowy night was dangerously poor.

Abridged and Produced by Jill Waters

A Waters Company production for BBC Radio 4.

0320121024

Relatively unscathed, convicted criminal Paul Archambault checks the plane for survivors.

Read by Barbara Barnes.

The astonishing true life adventure story of a plane crash in the wilds of northern Canada and the four men who survived to tell the tale.

On a wintry October night in 1984, nine passengers boarded a Piper Navajo commuter plane bound for remote communities in the far north of Canada. Only four people - strangers from wildly different backgrounds - survived the night that followed: the pilot, a prominent politician, an accused criminal and the rookie policeman escorting him.

The title is taken from the American mythologist Joseph Campbell who explored mankind's quest for meaning and adventure: 'It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life'.

The author, Carol Shaben, is the daughter of Larry Shaben a politician in the Alberta Legislature who survived the crash. Using extensive interviews with all the remaining survivors and their families, as well as investigation reports and court records, she reconstructs the events leading up to the fatal crash and unravels the enduring impact it had on the four survivors and the bonds they formed that night on the mountain.

Episode Three:

Paul Archambault was a convicted criminal, but he was also a personable young man and his police escort had felt comfortable removing his handcuffs once the plane was airborne. Relatively unscathed, it was Paul who chose to go back to the wrecked plane to see who was alive. He found Erik, Scott the police officer and Larry Shaben - the author's father. Now all they had to do is stay alive until help arrived.

Abridged and Produced by Jill Waters

A Waters Company production for BBC Radio 4.

0420121025

Paul is acclaimed a hero, but can he rise to fill the role that he finds himself cast in?

Read by Barbara Barnes.

The astonishing true life adventure story of a plane crash in the wilds of northern Canada and the four men who survived to tell the tale.

On a wintry October night in 1984, nine passengers boarded a Piper Navajo commuter plane bound for remote communities in the far north of Canada. Only four people - strangers from wildly different backgrounds - survived the night that followed: the pilot, a prominent politician, an accused criminal and the rookie policeman escorting him.

The title is taken from the American mythologist Joseph Campbell who explored mankind's quest for meaning and adventure: 'It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life'.

The author, Carol Shaben, is the daughter of Larry Shaben a politician in the Alberta Legislature who survived the crash. Using extensive interviews with all the remaining survivors and their families, as well as investigation reports and court records, she reconstructs the events leading up to the fatal crash and unravels the enduring impact it had on the four survivors and the bonds they formed that night on the mountain.

Episode Four:

In the aftermath of the accident and the rescue, the nation decides that Paul is a hero - but can he rise to fill the role that he finds himself unexpectedly cast in? Meantime, Scott is recovering from life-threatening injuries and trying to work out just what he had witnessed that night on the mountain.

Abridged and Produced by Jill Waters

A Waters Company production for BBC Radio 4.

05 LAST20121026

Read by Barbara Barnes.

The astonishing true life adventure story of a plane crash in the wilds of northern Canada and the four men who survived to tell the tale.

On a wintry October night in 1984, nine passengers boarded a Piper Navajo commuter plane bound for remote communities in the far north of Canada. Only four people - strangers from wildly different backgrounds - survived the night that followed: the pilot, a prominent politician, an accused criminal and the rookie policeman escorting him.

The title is taken from the American mythologist Joseph Campbell who explored mankind's quest for meaning and adventure: 'It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life'.

The author, Carol Shaben, is the daughter of Larry Shaben a politician in the Alberta Legislature who survived the crash. Using extensive interviews with all the remaining survivors and their families, as well as investigation reports and court records, she reconstructs the events leading up to the fatal crash and unravels the enduring impact it had on the four survivors and the bonds they formed that night on the mountain.

Episode Five:

Erik becomes a campaigner for aviation safety and warns of the dangers of pilot fatigue. He takes to the air once again. Larry organises a reunion.

Abridged and Produced by Jill Waters

A Waters Company production for BBC Radio 4.

Erik becomes a campaigner for aviation safety. He flies again. Larry organises a reunion.