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Trenches

What’s deeper than deep? Well, that would be ocean trenches. These long, narrow formations generally occur where continental plates converge. As these plates impact or scrape together, parts of them may become subducted, or forced sideways or downward. At these points, deep trenches can form, some dropping 2.5 miles (4 km) deeper than the surrounding ocean floor. Because these are areas where the earth’s crust is weakened, trenches are often characterized by volcanic activity and earthquakes. Very little is known about trenches, although science continues to make some advances in reaching this remote part of the ocean through remote-operated vehicles.

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Slideshow: Trenches

  • Trenches1

    This color-enhanced photo was taken from orbit and shows the Puerto Rico Trench, the deepest known spot in the Atlantic Ocean. (NOAA photo)

  • Trenches2

    Caught on film by an ROV in 2009, molten lava disgorges from the earth's surface before quickly cooling and falling away. (NOAA photo)

  • Trenches3

    Because they're so deep and so dark, developing digital models is often the best way for scientists to visualize trenches. (NOAA image)