Richard Garriott made his bones in the early days of the videogame industry as the creator of the Ultima RPG series and co-founder of Origin Systems. In more recent years his attention shifted from game development to real-world exploration: He's been to the North Pole, the South Pole, and outer space, among other places.
Now, as reported by The Mirror, he's added another milestone to that impressive list of accomplishments by travelling to the Mariana Trench, the deepest oceanic trench on the planet. The journey makes him the only person in the world to have visited both poles, outer space, and the lowest physical point on the planet.
Garriott said it took roughly four hours to make the 36,000-foot journey (that's just under seven miles) to the bottom of the Pacific. Once there, he took photos, collected samples, and recorded a short sci-fi film—something he also did during his time aboard the International Space Station. He also confirmed that he was able to complete the entire 12-hour journey without requiring a bathroom break.
"On the video I took you can see these nice little four or five inch long translucent black worms," Garriott said. "They’re there all over the floor down there. And you can also see tracks of larger, things that are out there."
(The italics are mine, not Garriott's, but I think it's an appropriate fit after, as he put it, "a descent into darkness in the truest sense.")
Victor Vescovo, who accompanied Garriott on his journey, shared this brief video of the bottom of the world on Twitter:
Video of the Limiting Factor submersible cruising above the shattered rocks of the Challenger Deep, Pacific Plate side. We looked for something to pick up but they were all too big. More exploring hopefully tomorrow on the Filipino Plate side. pic.twitter.com/oJ4sVFKYWfMarch 2, 2021
Garriott told Space.com that along with collecting specimens and conducting experiments, he also used the opportunity to have a little bit of personal fun by planting the deepest geocache on Earth. He previously set the world's highest geocache during his trip to the ISS.
"We've cut a 6-inch-square [15 cm] titanium plate that not only has the geocache number written on it, which is still hidden until we make it public in a week or so, and it has a secret word written on it," he said. "And we have a syntactic foam float that rises up on a Kevlar tether, which also has the word 'geocache' and the geocache number on it."
"Then, on the opposite sides of the syntactic foam, which is kind of a downward facing arrow, is the secret word. And so the secret word is in four places on this thing. So that way, anybody that happens to see this again in the future therefore will have seen the secret word and will have a chance to find this geocache as well."
Despite being best known (to gamers, at least) as a pioneering figure in the game business, Garriott is not simply a bored tourist with money: In January he was elected president of The Explorers Club, a century-old organization "dedicated to the advancement of field research and the ideal that it is vital to preserve the instinct to explore."