First Pacific islander to travel to deepest part of the ocean recognized

Nicole Yamase, left, with undersea explorer Victor Lance Vescovo (Twitter photo)

Nicole Yamase, who is from Chuuk and Pohnpei in the FSM, became the first Pacific Islander, and the youngest woman, to travel to the deepest part of the world’s ocean —- the Challenger Deep.

The Challenger Deep, part of the Marianas Trench, is 35,856 ft (10,929 m) below sea level. It is located within the territory of the FSM. Yamase is the first FSM citizen to visit this unique environment.

On Wednesday morning, Blue Prosperity Micronesia hosted “Talk Story with FSM President David Panuelo & Nicole Yamase: A Conversation on Navigating the FSM’s Blue Heritage & Future.”

Panuelo joined Nicole Yamase to discuss the recent Challenger Deep expedition and other topics.

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Yamase, who is pursuing her PhD in Marine Biology at UH Manoa, described the expedition as a proud moment for her. She also spoke about encouraging more young Micronesians to pursue career paths in STEM.

She says she has always been a strong advocate for STEM education and this started during her undergraduate years at Chaminade University. Throughout the years, she realized that there are not too many Micronesians in the sciences.

“That’s why we need more Micronesians in the field. These are the young Micronesians who will be out in the water. They will have the fundamental knowledge of what is happening in our land and on our ocean … planning and taking care of our reefs,” Yamase said

She added that climate change is going to be a long-term issue and the long-term solution is STEM education for the youth.

FSM President David Panuelo spoke about efforts to rename or reclaim the name of the Challenger Deep to honor its location in Micronesia.

“I would support that … we’ve claimed an area of the continental shelf that extends beyond the exclusive economic zone,” he said.

Panuelo added that he is willing to work with Blue Prosperity Micronesia to democratize the process of renaming the area. He says renaming can also be done via Congressional resolution but would have to go through international procedures to gain wider acceptance.

The event was live-streamed on Facebook