Subscribers and print readers should recall the long-haired St. Marks grad who graced the cover of the February issue of this magazine, holding a rocks glass and wearing a watch that had traveled with him to the deepest part of the world. Victor Vescovo may live in Preston Hollow, but he’s the only person who has actually been to the very bottom of each of the world’s oceans.
He did it in a year, and he’s spent the pandemic taking scientists down to the Pacific in his submersible. (The middle of the ocean is probably safer than your favorite restaurant, for what it’s worth.) On Tuesday, HBO’s Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel features a segment on Vescovo’s accomplishment. It brings to life the deepest portions of the ocean floor, even showing a few of the 40 or so new species the Five Deeps expedition uncovered.
It also does a good job of breaking Bryant’s brain in a few places: Vescovo is not normal. What sounds crazy to us—climbing the seven summits, skiing both poles, building the first-ever submersible that can withstand the pressure of the very bottom of the ocean again and again—are simply calculated risks to him. Was he scared to go down the first time? “I trusted the testing,” he responds. Does he want to go out in a blaze of glory on an expedition? Absolutely not. It would reflect poorly on his preparation. That would mean “I didn’t properly assess the risks,” he says. He bailed on Everest after getting frostbite, and Kilimanjaro took another try because of altitude sickness. He knows when it’s time to walk away and try again later. He has always succeeded afterward.
Death during a trip would mean “I failed in my primary goal, which is always to have a boring expedition.” Yes, a boring expedition to a part of the world only he has ventured to. The New Yorker has written about his expedition, as has The Economist. And now, you can see it come to life for yourself.
Read my profile from February, then open up HBO Max at 9 p.m. tomorrow. Here is the trailer.