Despite covering most of the Earth's surface, very little is known about what is going on at the ocean's depths. While man has attempted to uncover its secrets for several hundred years now, we have still explored very little of it.
What are some interesting facts about deep-sea exploration technology?
And so, without further ado, here are some interesting facts about deep-sea exploration technology. This list is far from exhaustive and is in no particular order.
1. Around 90 to 95% of the deep sea is, as yet, unexplored
Beneath the waves lies our planet's final frontier, the deep sea. So far only 6% has been explored – but what we have found there has shocked and excited scientists, so this week we ask: Is the Deep Ocean the answer to some of our biggest problems?https://t.co/aKrJdyMLCn— BBC The Inquiry (@BBCTheInquiry) July 4, 2019
The world's oceans cover somewhere in the region of 70% of the Earth's surface. While we have navigated and mapped most of its surface, what lies beneath is largely still a mystery.
It is estimated that somewhere between 90 and 95% of the ocean depths are still a complete mystery to us. What possible wonders could we discover in the near future?
2. Deep-sea exploration technology needs to be very robust indeed
Decentralized protocols are like deep sea fish. Hideous things specialized to live in dark, high pressure (legal) environments. pic.twitter.com/q6qIwYq1KM— John Backus (@backus) September 12, 2018
One of the main reasons that the deep-sea regions of the world's oceans are largely unexplored by man is that conditions are very harsh down there. The deep-sea is typically defined as the part of an ocean's water body lying below the thermocline (the point where sunlight cannot penetrate beyond).
This makes them very dark, very cold places, and all that mass of water above creates some seriously large pressures. Temperatures can range from between 0 and 3 degrees Celsius at 3,000 meter plus and pressures can exceed 15.7 thousand psi.
Any exploration equipment needs to be able to withstand this. And any lifeforms for that matter.
3. Ferdinand Magellan was one of, if not the first, to attempt to "explore" the deep sea
On this day, 499 years ago, in the early morning hours of April 27th, 1521, Visayan warriors led by Lapu Lapu of Mactan defeated and killed Portuguese Fidalgo Ferdinand Magellan of Spain. pic.twitter.com/FSYRYfjNor— DirectActionAlliance (@DirectActionPDX) April 27, 2020
The famous, if ill-fated, explorer Ferdinand Megallen is one of, if not the first, person to attempt to explore the deep sea. On his historic voyage of discovery, he and his crew attempted to record the depth of the Pacific Ocean using a weighted line.
Unfortunately, he ran out of line before it could touch the bottom. The line was around 2,400 feet long (732 m).
4. Some of the first deep-sea creatures were brought to the surface in 1818
In around 1818, the British Navy Officer, Sir John Ross, entered the history books by dredging up some worms and jellyfish from the deep-sea regions. From a depth of around 2,000 meters, his amazing catch revealed proof that life can indeed thrive at such depths.
5. The first true deep-sea exploration occurred in the 1870s
On this day in 1875, the HMS Challenger crew discovered the deepest place on Earth—the Mariana Trench. At the time, they measured a depth of 8,184 m (5 mi), but more advanced tech today has uncovered a depth of nearly 11,000 m (6.9 mi)! Explore the depths in #UnseenOceans pic.twitter.com/Ro5tIJKW1n— American Museum of Natural History (@AMNH) March 23, 2019
In the early- to mid-1870s, the British ship HMS Challenger conducted the world's first dedicated deep-sea exploration mission. Headed by Charles Wyville Thomson, the crew of the vessel discovered many new species uniquely adapted to intense conditions so far below the ocean's surface.
Part of their expedition managed to discover the now-famous Mariana Trench.
6. The 1930s saw the first humans explore the deep-sea
A dive of a quarter-mile beneath the ocean in 1930 led by explorers William Beebe and Otis Barton was the first serious foray into crewed deep-sea exploration. They were lowered into the Atlantic Ocean near Bermuda in a tiny steel orb called a bathysphere. pic.twitter.com/RfAcJoTvEd— OceanPlanet (@OceanPlanetFIE) March 2, 2020
In the early-1930s, two men became the first to ever physically visit the deep-sea. William Beebe and Otis Barton using their steel "Bathysphere" penetrated the deep-sea and observed, first hand, strange shrimp and jellyfish.
7. The deepest part of the Mariana Trench was explored in the early-1960s
January 23, 1960, the bathosphere "Trieste", crewed by Jacques Piccard and US Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh, reaches the bottom of the Mariana Trench (10,900 m), the deepest point on Earth's surface and a subduction zone of the Pacific plate pic.twitter.com/T0ANuSbYpL— History_of_Geology (@Geology_History) January 23, 2020
Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh entered the history books when they successfully explored the deepest part of the Mariana Trench in the 1960s. Traveling aboard the deep-sea vessel Trieste, the descended the full 10,740 meters of the Challenger Deep.
They were astonished to find weird species of fish thriving at such depths. Something that was thought to have been impossible.
James Cameron would emulate this momentous occasion in 2012 with his own solo mission to the Challenger Deep.
8. The late 1970s saw a momentous and unpredictable discovery
In the late 1970s, one of the most significant finds in deep-sea exploration occurred -- the discovery of deep-sea hydrothermal vents. While interesting in and of themselves, these vents were found to be teeming with life.
Far from the Sun's influence, these organisms actually "feed" on geothermal chemical energy rather than sunlight.
9. Most modern exploration is conducted using satellites and robots
While many early deep-sea explorations were manned, most modern ones use a range of sophisticated tech including satellite mapping and robots. For example, The Ocean Exploration Trust's Nautilus exploration vehicle and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Okeanus Explorer have, and continue to make, some very important discoveries in the ocean's depths.
Most of these comprise of either remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) or autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). These robots tend to be tasked with mapping the seafloor, measure temperature, assessing chemical composition, and, where possible, taking videos and images.
Such devices can travel deeper and more safely than risking the lives of a human crew.