Dawn Wright is making waves after being the first Black woman to reach the depths of the Earth.
Dawn Wright (know affectionately as Deep-Sea Dawn) descended to the deepest point on the planet to unearth the first hi-res mapping of Challenger Deep. She is only the 27th person to take the plunge and the fifth woman in world history.
“If those men could land on the moon, I thought, ‘Why can’t I go the opposite direction and explore the oceans?’” she told CBS News.
The 61-year-old sea maven grew up in sunny Hawaii and dreamed of becoming an oceanographer. But her meteoric rise to become Chief Scientist at Esri, an international supplier that builds the leading geographic information system software, web GIS and geodatabase management applications, came with pitfalls.
“I spent several years at sea as a marine technician. And there were men on the ship that I was on who didn’t believe that women should be there,” she said. “That is the story, an age-old story. It’s still an issue,” she continued as she recalled what it was like to be a young Black woman oceanographer in the 70s and 80s.
In 1960, Jacques Piccard and Navy Lt. Don Walsh were the first men to reach Challenger Deep in a U.S. Navy submersible called the Trieste, according to the National Geographic. They were unable to capture images because it was too cloudy that far deep in the ocean. Wright was one years old at the time.
Sixty-two years later, Wright surfaced images thanks to a side-scan sonar, a category of sonar system that is used to capture images of large swaths of the sea’s floor. It took her 10 hours to reach the location. As it stands, less than a 25% of the world’s seafloor is mapped “to sufficient detail,” she said.