This month, when Victor Vescovo ’84 returned to the Pacific Ocean’s Challenge Deep, he brought a little Marksman ingenuity with him. The dive team had been searching for ways to collect soil samples from the deepest point in the ocean when Victor reached out to the St. Mark’s Robotics Team. After building several prototypes, students presented their ideas
to Victor in the Winn Science Center this January. Victor provided invaluable feedback and the students focused their efforts on a macaroni-shaped collector that would be able to scoop up bits of the ocean floor while enduring the bone-crushing water pressure nearly seven miles beneath the surface.
On June 20, 2020, Mr. Vescovo took his sixth dive to the bottom of the Challenge Deep, accompanied by Kelly Walsh, whose father was one of the first divers to explorer the bottom of the Deep. The Marksmen-designed soil collector was attached to a separate lander and retrieved about a quarter-liter of useful sediment. The sediment will be studied for whatever bacteria, viruses, and even human contamination might be found in this extremely remote corner of the Earth.
“I should note that an electrically-actuated device, made by a commercial marine-engineering firm, failed to extract any useful samples last year on our mission here. But the young men and teachers of St. Mark’s were able to design and build a purely mechanically-actuated soil sampler, which worked in the deepest place on earth,” Victor said in an email to Stewart Mayer, St. Mark’s Makerspace Director. Victor concluded his email, “Well done, gentlemen!”
Victor’s return to the Challenger Deep also drew international attention as one of his copilots was Kathy Sullivan, the first woman to explore the Challenge Deep. Kathy, a veteran of three Space Shuttle missions, achieved this feat 36 years after becoming the first woman to walk in space.
In April 2019, Victor broke the undersea depth record
when he piloted his submersible, DSV Limiting Factor
, down 35,853 feet into the Mariana Trench’s Challenger Deep in the Pacific Ocean. One month later, Victor returned to St. Mark’s to deliver the Commencement Address to the Class of 2019. In August 2019, Victor and his team completed their historic Five Deeps Expedition, visiting the deepest point in the world’s five oceans.
Before setting his sights beneath the sea, Victor became only the 53rd person in history to complete the Explorers Grand Slam, which includes climbing the Seven Summits and skiing to both the North and South Poles. Throughout his adventures, Victor has displayed his Lion pride, wearing a St. Mark’s crest on his diving uniform and carrying a St. Mark’s flag to the summit of Mt. Everest and the South Pole.
After graduating from St. Mark’s, Vescovo earned degrees from Stanford University, MIT, and Harvard Business School. He co-founded the private equity firm Insight Equity and spent more than two decades as an operational intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve.
Victor is also the 2020 recipient of St. Mark’s Distinguished Alumnus Award