UP marine scientist makes history as the 1st Filipino to reach the 3rd deepest point on Earth

| Written by Celeste Ann Castillo Llaneta

Before the descent at 6:30AM on March 23. Photo courtesy of Mr. Joselito Dela Cruz Membrot of DSSV Pressure Drop, shared on the UPMSI Facebook page.


Dr. Deo Florence L. Onda, a microbial oceanographer who is Associate Professor and Deputy Director for Research of the Marine Science Institute (MSI) in the University of the Philippines Diliman, makes history as the first and only Filipino and one of the first two human beings to make the first manned descent into Emden Deep, the third deepest point on Earth.

The Emden Deep is located in the Philippine trench and is approximately 34,100 feet or 10,400 meters. On March 23, the explorers made touchdown at 10,045 meters deep. Watch the historic moment here.

According to a press release by the UPMSI, Dr. Onda was invited by the private organization Caladan Oceanic to join the Emden Deep Expedition, to be held from March 22 to 28, 2021. The expedition is being carried out on board the DSSV Pressure Drop, described as the only marine vessel in the world designed to endure such missions and to carry humans to the deepest parts of the world’s oceans.

Dr. Onda joins an American undersea explorer, Victor Vescovo, who according to the UP MSI, is “the current record holder of the deepest manned descent in the Marianas Trench in 2019” and is the “main sponsor of Caladan Oceanic, which . . . has been setting records for deepest manned descents in the world’s deepest trenches, with the most recent one in the Marianas in 2019”.

Dr. Onda and his companions started the voyage from the port of Guam to the Philippine Trench. This activity has been fully coordinated with the Philippine Government through the Department of Foreign Affairs and is considered a non-Marine Scientific Research (MSR) activity.

According to the UPMSI press release: “Part of the goal is to wave the Philippine Flag in the Emden Deep during its record-setting voyage, highlighting that it is an integral part of our nation’s heritage. Dr. Onda, as the sole Filipino researcher representing the country, will also be given a unique opportunity to be exposed to state-of-the-art vessels capable of deep-sea activities, which can enrich our experiences and knowledge as the Philippines builds its own National Academic Research Fleet (NARFleet), an ongoing national project funded by the Philippine Government. This endeavor can spark interest and passion for many other young Filipinos who would want to make a career in the sciences and bring more attention to the protection, preservation, and conservation of the Philippine marine environment.”

Dr. Onda and Mr. Vescovo are joined by a capable crew and expedition team that includes several Filipino members.


Dr. Deo Florence Onda and Mr. Victor Vescovo of the Caladan Oceanic are set to make the first dive in history to the 3rd deepest spot on earth (Emden Deep in the Philippine Trench). Photo from the UPMSI’s Facebook page.


Dr. Deo Florence Onda, UP microbial oceanographer, and Mr. Victor Vescovo, American undersea explorer, check in from the bottom of Emden Deep during their historic first crewed descent into the third deepest point on Earth. Watch the video on Dr. Onda’s Facebook page.



Dr. Onda is connected with the UPMSI’s Microbial Oceanography Laboratory, and is known for his research on host-symbiont interactions, microbial biogeography, diversity, dynamics and trophic interactions, and consequences of changing conditions. He has participated in a number of scientific expeditions, such as the Joint Ocean Ice Studies and Beaufort Gyre Exploration Project. He received multiple grants from different institutions and programmes for his research, along with internships and further trainings abroad.

For more information, please send inquiries to ddr@msi.upd.edu.ph/ (632) 922-3962, (632) 981-8500 local 2902, or email Mr. Rob McCallum (rob@eyos-expeditions.com), the expedition leader of the Caladan Expedition.

Follow updates on this historic exploration through the following websites and social media links, using the hashtag #IntoTheEmdenDeep:

The UP Marine Science Institute’s Facebook page

The UP Marine Science Institute’s website

Caladan Oceanic’s official website

The DSSV Pressure Drop Facebook page

Dr. Onda’s Instagram site, savedeocean