We may know more about Mars than we do about our own oceans. Oceans make up 71% of our planet. Let's put that size into perspective. Based on U.S. Geological Survey data, there are about 321,003,271 cubic miles of water on the planet. That would be enough water to fill up about 352,670,000,000,000,000,000 gallon-sized containers. The ocean is big and deep. This makes studying it very difficult.
We have satellites, buoys, underwater vehicles, ship tracks, submarines, and a host of other resources dedicated to understanding our oceans. However, our understanding of the oceans and marine life is growing at a sluggish pace. Oceanographer, Gene Feldman has spent the past 25 years studying the oceans. He described the current issues with ocean exploration in an interview with NASA saying, "In many ways, it's easier to put a person into space than it is to send a person down to the bottom of the ocean. For one thing, the pressure exerted by the water above is enormous."
"It's the equivalent of one person trying to withstand the weight of 50 jumbo jets. It's also dark and cold. Unlike space where you can see forever, once you're down in the ocean you can't see anything because your light can't shine very far. It's a challenging place to study." The good news is that we are learning more and more about the ocean every year, and the interest in ocean exploration has been rekindled recently. Today, we are going to focus on what we do know about the ocean. Perhaps one of our readers will one day become a pioneer in ocean exploration.
1. There are lakes, rivers, and hidden waterfalls in the ocean.
You read that correctly. Oceans do indeed have lakes, rivers, and even waterfalls. What is even more impressive is that these underwater lakes and rivers can drastically range in size, ranging from only a few feet across to a few miles wide. How is that possible? These lakes and rivers form when seawater seeps up through thick layers of salt beneath the seafloor. When the salt layer dissolves, it causes a depression on the ocean floor. Then the dissolved salt makes the water denser, and this dense water settles into these depressions, creating underwater bodies of brine. These brine pools also attract a bunch of alien-looking marine animals.
But, what about the waterfalls?
The Earth's largest known waterfall sits between Greenland and Iceland. However, it is underwater. It is a waterfall with 75 million cubic feet of water, dropping a whopping 11,500 feet. The waterfall was formed when denser water from the East side of Denmark met the warmer water on the opposite side. In short, the cold water flows down and underneath the warm water over a huge drop in the ocean floor. Dubbed the Denmark Strait cataract, it is three times the height of Angel Falls in Venezuela and carries 2,000 times the amount of water found at Niagara Falls.
2. Light gives the Ocean its iconic blue color.
The deep blue color of the Ocean is an inspiring thing. There is a hefty amount of artists, designers, and musicians who have drawn deep inspiration from the alluring ocean colors. However, a lot of people are not informed about where the ocean gets its color. The answer may surprise you. The Ocean's color is a result of the water absorbing colors in the red part of the light spectrum. The water acts like a filter, leaving behind colors in the blue part of the spectrum. Light bouncing off floating sediments and particles in the water also help the ocean take on green, red, or other hues sometimes.
Because blue wavelengths penetrate much deeper than some other wavelengths, the deeper you go in the ocean, the "bluer" it gets.
3. A majority of life on our Earth is aquatic.
The oceans are teeming with life. We have documented countless species within the ocean. Within our oceans, we have found everything from single-celled organisms to massive blue whales. Our oceans are complex ecosystems filled with fish, octopuses, squids, eels, dolphins, crustaceans, etc. This list goes on. Have you ever thought about what undiscovered creatures are yet to be found within our oceans? Researchers believe that we have only identified about ⅓ of the potential marine life lurking beneath the surface. There might even be mammal species that we are yet to discover. The good news is that researchers are making progress. Each year, an estimated 2000 new species are found within our oceans.
4. You will not find Nemo here.
You have probably imagined these scenarios before. What would you do if you are stranded on a deserted island? Or better yet, what would you do if you were stranded in the middle of the ocean? Both of the scenarios are equally terrifying. But perhaps you would definitely never want to get stuck at the most remote place in the South Pacific. Dubbed Point Nemo (Latin for "no-one"), the area is about 1,600 kilometers from the nearest stripe of land and around 2,700 kilometers from the nearest inhabited landmass.
Point Nemo is so far from land, the nearest humans are often astronauts. The International Space Station orbits the Earth at a maximum of 258 miles (416km). Point Nemo is considered to be the most remote place in the world. It is also used as a Space Cemetery - space agencies use it as a dumping ground, and it's estimated more than a hundred decommissioned spacecraft are lying beneath the surface here.
5. Want to go hunting for buried treasure?
You might have dreamed of stumbling across a long lost pirate map with instructions on how to locate some forgotten treasure buried under the sea. Maps might not be readily available, but there is plenty of lost treasure under the sea. Though it might be considered almost impossible to truly measure the number of shipwrecks sitting at the bottom of the ocean, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has estimated that there are at least 1 million sunken ships in the world's oceans, and other estimates go as high as 3 million. Although, this includes wrecks from the entirety of human history, from dugout canoes to 21st-century wrecks.
It is also estimated that the number of uncovered treasures within the ocean could be valued at over 60 billion dollars. Who wants to go treasure hunting?
6. The ocean is helping you read this article.
There is a web of cables under the ocean. What are they for? The name could be a clue maybe? Communication companies maintain international connections via these cables. As you probably imagine, laying these cables is slow, expensive, and tedious work. However, these hundreds of thousands of miles of cables are very important, as they are responsible for the transmission of 99% of the world's data. Installed by specialized boats called cable-layers, these undersea cables are located on the ocean floor's flat surfaces, avoiding things like coral reefs, sunken ships, fish beds, and other ecological habitats, and general obstructions. Even more so, the cables have to be designed to last in a difficult environment and are durable enough to withstand the occasional nibble from sharks. Meanwhile, the world's first underwater Wifi was set up recently.
7. There are some areas of the ocean that are unimaginably deep.
If you were able to sit down at the deepest point of the ocean and look right back up to the surface clearly, it would be similar to flying on a commercial flight and looking down on the Earth. That is how deep the ocean can get. The lowest point in the ocean is in the Challenger Deep, which lies beneath the western Pacific Ocean, in the southern end of the Mariana Trench. At a whopping 36,200 feet (11 km), the trench is so deep that you could fit all of Mount Everest inside. Just last year, Victor Vescovo made history, becoming the first person to reach the deepest part of the ocean. Sadly, plastic pollution has also made its way here.
8. There is a lot of gold under the ocean.
After you get tired of looking for sunken treasures, perhaps you could try your hand in alchemy, turning ocean water into gold. It has been estimated that there are about 20 million tons of diluted gold throughout our oceans. But do not go grab a strainer yet. Even if you diluted one liter of water, you would get 13-billionth of a gram at the very best. That is not enough to get you rich anytime soon.
9. Most volcanic eruptions happen underwater.
There are an estimated 1 million volcanoes underwater. The good news is that they are not all active, with very few actually spewing out molten lava. Nevertheless, around 80% of volcanic eruptions on the planet actually happen underwater. The volcanic structures also create superheated vents that spew hot water deep underwater. These same vents can cause the surrounding water areas to reach temperatures of up to 750 degrees F (400 degrees C). These deep vents have a special role to play in the ocean ecosystem, as a variety of life forms thrive near the superheated vents. Studying these vents could shed light on how life might possibly evolve on other planets in equally harsh places.
10. There is a lot of plastic in the oceans
It has been estimated that there are about 7 million tons of plastic dumped into our oceans each year. What is even more troubling is that these plastics end up inside all types of ocean life. A research team from the University of California San Diego say that fish in the Northern Pacific swallow anywhere from 12,000 and 24,000 tons of plastic every year. Microplastics even make their way into our bodies when we eat the marine organisms. Here are some tools we are using to save our oceans.
11. Thank the ocean for our oxygen.
Aside from providing humans with a diverse ecosystem, oceans also provide us with oxygen. It is estimated that the oceans produce between 50 and 80% of the Earth's oxygen with the photosynthesis made by marine plankton, algae, and some bacteria. Take a deep breath and make sure you thank the ocean for life.
What is your favorite fact about the ocean? For more information on our oceans, be sure to stop by here.