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The Great Rift is an area of sparse star count between the Sagittarius and Orion Arms of the Milky Way Galaxy. It was little explored by the Federation until the dispatch of the USS Marignano in 2369. (TNG novel: Intellivore)
Prior to the Marignano's mission, however, Lt. Commander Hwiii ih'iie-uUlak!ha' "hitched a ride" aboard a Lalairu vessel traveling through the region, in order to conduct his research into subspace hyperstring structure. They ventured into the area "above" the Great Rift and the galactic plane. In 2367, the Lalairu rendezvoused with the USS Enterprise near the Great Rift and Commander Hwiii's transferred aboard to continue his research. (TNG novel: Dark Mirror)