A Russian Orthodox priest plans to become the first to dive to the depths of the Pacific Ocean and plant an Orthodox cross and Russian flag there.
Fr Feodor Konyukhov will plumb the deepest point of the Mariana Trench with fellow explorer Artur Chilingarov, RIA-Novosti reports.
"Artur Nikolaevich (Chilingarov) and I will plunge into the Mariana Trench. He will be placing a flag of the Russian Federation there, and I, as an Orthodox priest, will place a cross," said F. Feodor.
The first dive to the bottom of the Mariana trench was made on January 23, 1960, when the crew of the Trieste descended a distance of 10.9 kilometers, or 6.77 miles. 50 years later to the day, Konyukhov was given the ancient limestone cross which he hopes to take to those depths and beyond. He plans to explore a narrow and as yet unreached trench, travelling to a depth of 11,025 metres, or 6.85 miles.
Feodor is no stranger to pioneering adventure. In May, he was given a priest's cross with which he orbited the earth in a hot air balloon.
Chilingarov previously led the 2007 Russian diving expedition to the seabed deep below the North Pole. Chilingarov and his team placed the Russian flag 4,200m beneath the North Pole in a bid to secure his country's claims to the Arctic.
The exact date for this year's expedition has not been set, as the two-person submarine in which they plan to travel is yet to be built.