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Puerto Rico Trench


The Puerto Rico Trench is the deepest place in the Atlantic Ocean, plunging more than five miles below sea level. Lying about 75 miles north of the island of Puerto Rico, this long, narrow gash in the seafloor extends to the east for nearly 1,100 miles. The region remains poorly understood, largely because its tremendous depth makes it difficult to study. Even remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and other deep-sea research tools have not been able to reach the bottom of the trench, yet recent exploration cruises and mapping projects have begun to unravel the mystery. The Trench began to form about 70 million years ago, as the North American and Caribbean tectonic plates started to grind past each other along the Bunce Fault system named for a pioneering geophysicist, Dr. Elizabeth Bunce. This fault system is similar to the San Andreas Fault in California. Because Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands lie on this active plate boundary, tsunami-causing earthquakes and submarine landslides are a real threat to nearly four million local residents.



Exploration and Research
Oceanographic and Bathymetric Features


Ocean Explorer: Puerto Rico Trench
Puerto Rico Trench on Wikipedia
1918 Puerto Rico Tsunami


The Puerto Rico Trench. Image:USGS


NOAA vessel studying the Puerto Rico Trench. Photo: NOAA