The vastness of the ocean has always been a source of mystery and wonder for humans. With more than 70% of the Earth’s surface covered by water, it’s not surprising that the ocean remains largely unexplored. However, over the centuries, humans have attempted to map and discover the ocean’s depths, and significant progress has been made. In this blog, we’ll explore how much of the ocean has been discovered, the methods used to explore it, and the implications of this knowledge.
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What is the ocean?
Before we delve into how much of the ocean has been discovered, it’s important to understand what we mean by “ocean.” The ocean is a vast body of salt water that covers about 71% of the Earth’s surface. It is divided into five major basins: the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Southern (Antarctic), and Arctic oceans. The ocean plays a crucial role in regulating the Earth’s climate, as it absorbs and releases heat, carbon dioxide, and other gases. It is also home to a vast array of marine life, from tiny plankton to giant whales.
How is the ocean explored?
Exploring the ocean is no easy feat. The water’s depth, pressure, and temperature make it difficult for humans to explore it directly. Instead, scientists use a variety of methods to map and study the ocean. Some of the most common methods include:
Sonar is a technique that uses sound waves to map the ocean floor. A ship sends out sound waves, which bounce off the ocean floor and return to the ship. By measuring the time it takes for the sound waves to return, scientists can create a map of the ocean floor.
Satellites can be used to study the ocean’s surface from above. By measuring things like sea surface temperature, sea level, and ocean color, scientists can learn about ocean currents, weather patterns, and other important ocean processes.
Submersibles are vehicles that can dive deep into the ocean to study the water and marine life. Some submersibles are manned, meaning humans can travel inside them, while others are remote-controlled.
ROVs (remotely operated vehicles) are unmanned vehicles that can be used to explore the ocean. They are controlled from the surface and are equipped with cameras, sensors, and other instruments to collect data.
How much of the ocean has been discovered?
Despite centuries of exploration, we have only scratched the surface of the ocean’s depths. It’s estimated that we have explored less than 5% of the ocean. However, this percentage can be misleading. While we may have physically explored only a small portion of the ocean, we have learned a great deal about it through other means, such as satellites and sonar. In fact, we have mapped nearly the entire ocean floor using sonar, giving us a much better understanding of the ocean’s geography.
When it comes to exploring the ocean’s depths, we have made some significant progress in recent years. In 2012, director James Cameron made a historic dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean. He traveled 7 miles (11 kilometers) below the ocean’s surface in a submersible called the Deepsea Challenger. The dive was a major achievement, as it allowed scientists to study the Mariana Trench in more detail than ever before.
What have we discovered in the ocean?
Despite our limited exploration of the ocean, we have discovered some incredible things. Here are just a few examples:
- Marine life:
The ocean is home to a vast array of marine life, from microscopic plankton to giant whales. We have discovered many new species in recent years, including the “hairy-chested Hoff crab” and the “ghost octopus.” The discovery of new species not only helps us understand the diversity of life in the ocean but can also have important implications for medicine and other fields.
- Underwater volcanoes and hydrothermal vents:
We have discovered a vast network of underwater volcanoes and hydrothermal vents, which can have a significant impact on the ocean’s chemistry and biology. These vents release hot, mineral-rich fluids into the ocean, which can support unique ecosystems of bacteria, worms, and other organisms.
The ocean floor is littered with thousands of shipwrecks, many of which have been discovered in recent years. These wrecks can offer important insights into the history of human exploration and trade, as well as the technologies used to build and navigate ships.
Implications of ocean exploration
Understanding the ocean is crucial for a variety of reasons. Here are just a few of the implications of ocean exploration:
- Climate regulation:
The ocean plays a crucial role in regulating the Earth’s climate, and understanding its processes is essential for predicting and mitigating the impacts of climate change.
- Resource management:
The ocean is a vital source of food, energy, and other resources. Understanding the ocean’s ecosystems and their interactions with human activities is critical for the sustainable management of these resources.
- Human health:
The ocean is a rich source of natural products that have important applications in medicine and other fields. For example, some drugs used to treat cancer and other diseases are derived from marine organisms.
In conclusion, while we have made significant progress in exploring the ocean, we have only scratched the surface of its depths. However, the methods we have used to explore the ocean have allowed us to learn a great deal about its geography, marine life, and processes. Understanding the ocean is crucial for a variety of reasons, from climate regulation to resource management to human health. As technology advances, we can expect to make even more discoveries about the ocean and its many mysteries.