How Much Percent Of The Ocean Has Been Discovered – Humans have been exploring the oceans since the first sailing ships left the shores of Egypt more than 6,000 years ago.
It is easy to assume that in that time, and with our modern technologies, we would have discovered everything there is to know about the oceans. However, the latest estimates suggest that less than 10% of the world’s seafloor has been accurately mapped.
How Much Percent Of The Ocean Has Been Discovered
In fact, because of the extreme challenges of deep ocean exploration, we know more about the surface of the Moon than we do about the ocean floor.
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So while we have accurately mapped areas close to home, discovered new species and explored shipwrecks, our understanding of the ocean is far from complete.
When we answer, “How much ocean have we discovered? we look at the history of ocean exploration and examine the current state of this highly demanding science. We will also explain why continued ocean exploration is essential and how it can help humanity in the future.
The five ocean basins cover 71% of our planet, contain 97% of the water and are undoubtedly the lifeblood of Earth.
Despite our reliance on the ocean, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that more than eighty percent of the ocean floor has yet to be mapped, let alone directly explored. Less than ten percent of the sea floor has been accurately mapped using modern sonar technology.
How Much Of The Ocean Have We Discovered?
Even in the coastal waters of the United States, only about 35 percent of the ocean floor has been accurately mapped.
The lack of knowledge is due to several factors, primarily the ocean’s immense size, incredible depth, and extreme inaccessibility.
As we will find out, it is not just the mapping of the sea floor that is important. Understanding life in the deep ocean and how the environment is changing gives us considerable insight into the health of our planet.
Without the ocean, there would be no life as we know it above or below the surface. The planet’s water cycle would be disrupted. We would be starved for oxygen as scientists estimate that 50-80% of the vital gas produced on our entire planet comes from the ocean.
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The oceans also play a huge role in regulating our planet’s temperature, absorbing much of the carbon dioxide produced by natural and industrial activities.
To understand how much of the ocean we have explored, it is important to distinguish between ocean water and the sea floor.
As for near-surface water, we’ve explored a significant amount. We have mapped and continue to monitor the ocean’s currents and tides and study its chemical composition and surface temperatures, thanks in part to modern satellite technology.
Ocean exploration began when the first humans left their lands on rafts to catch food or travel short distances. However, oceanography is a relatively young science that explicitly studies the oceans.
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The ancient Egyptians launched the first sailing ships around 4000 BC and their version of ocean exploration would focus on the winds to get them where they wanted, watching the tides and trying to figure out how deep the water was so they wouldn’t. run aground.
Ancient Greeks and Romans, Phoenician sailors from the eastern Mediterranean, Viking sailors in northern Europe, and Chinese and European sailors, among others, covered impressive distances. Exploration below the surface, however, remained limited mainly to navigational needs.
Some of the first significant attempts to map the ocean depths were made in the 19th century. French explorer Jules Sébastien César Dumont d’Urville used lead ropes to measure depths in the Mediterranean Sea. He went on to produce the most accurate maps of the time of the South Pacific and Antarctica.
In 1913, the echo was invented in Germany and ocean measurement took a giant leap forward. Between 1925 and 1938, the German vessel Meteor traveled the Atlantic Ocean, mapping the sea floor using newly invented sonar equipment.
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While the modern submarine was invented in the 19th century, the first people to directly observe the deep ocean were Americans Otis Barton and William Beebe in the 1930s. During several dives off the coast of Bermuda, they descended as low as 923 meters (3,028 ft) in their tethered Bathysphere submersible.
Advances in the twentieth century, largely from World War II, including the development of better sonar and echo-sounding technologies, allowed researchers to map the seafloor with ever greater accuracy from their ships.
Meanwhile, deep-ocean submersibles, including the Trieste bathyscape in 1960, allowed men to visit even the deepest part of the ocean, the Mariana Trench.
It was satellite technology that created the next major step in ocean exploration. Satellites have allowed scientists to measure vast areas of the sea in much less time than was possible with research vessels.
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Satellites bounce radar beams off the surface of the ocean and use the data to measure changes in elevation, which can be used to create maps of the sea floor.
Finally, in 2017, the Seabed 2030 project was launched with the aim of completely and accurately mapping the ocean floor by 2030.
We have explored most of Earth’s shallow coastal waters and extensively mapped the ocean floor, although perhaps not as precisely as we would like.
However, many mysteries still remain to be unraveled. Thousands of new species of marine life remain to be discovered, especially in deep ocean trenches.
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Satellites monitor ocean currents, measure water temperature and track marine life. They are also used to detect oil spills and other environmental hazards.
However, they can only measure the surface, and much of the vital information lies deep in the ocean. Scientists use submarines, remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) to “personally” explore the depths, bringing back images with previously unimaginable clarity.
One of the most critical areas of ocean research is climate change. Changes in water temperatures in the deep oceans provide us with a significant amount of information about what is happening to our planet. These measurements need to be done “in person” and repeatedly to track changes.
In addition, the study of new life found around high-temperature hydrothermal vents is leading global warming researchers to consider ways to preserve shallow marine life.
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The effects of human activity have also been recorded by the discovery of plastics and other artificial waste even in the most remote depths of the sea.
At a commercial level, the deep seabed is also explored for valuable deposits of oil, gas and rare minerals.
The deep sea is defined as the area of the ocean below 200 meters (656 ft). Here the continental shelves give way to steep continental slopes and the last rays of the sun disappear even from the clearest waters.
The average depth of the world’s oceans is an astonishing 3,688 meters (12,100 feet), and the area of the seabed less than 200 meters deep is only 7 percent of the total.
How Much Of The Ocean Have We Explored To Date
Cold water temperatures between -2 °C (28 °F) and 5 °C (41 °F) and a lack of sunlight make the deep ocean a challenging environment. However, it is the extreme water pressure that makes the environment so extremely difficult to explore.
At the deepest point in the Challenger Deep section of the Mariana Trench, the sea floor of the Pacific Ocean lies at a depth of about 10,984 meters (36,037 ft). The water pressure here is 1,086 bars or, as is often explained, the equivalent of more than 100 adult elephants.
Even at shallower depths, the still significant pressure means that it takes incredible and expensive engineering to send scientific equipment into the ocean, let alone human explorers.
Ocean exploration technology is relatively new. Human beings have always explored the surface of the ocean, but only in the last few decades have we begun to explore its depths ourselves.
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Even the most advanced long-range vehicles have limited range and time to remain underwater. Divers in submarines can only stay for short periods of time due to the need to carry oxygen, food, water and energy and the lack of comfort in cramped underwater vehicles.
Also consider the vast size of the ocean. At almost 71% of our planet’s surface, it will require a staggering amount of time and resources to fully explore.
Mapping the ocean floor is essential to understanding the ocean environment. Fortunately, ocean exploration technology has come a long way from throwing a rope over the side of a ship and waiting for it to find the bottom.
Researchers are using their high-resolution multi-beam sonar to create three-dimensional images of the ocean floor and create maps with unprecedented detail. These maps improve our understanding of ocean geology and have revealed the locations of seamounts and trenches.
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Specific sites of interest can then be investigated more closely using human-occupied (HOV), remotely operated (ROV) and autonomous vehicles to collect samples for study and to take photographs and video.
While unmanned vehicles are more cost-effective, many, including famed director and ocean pioneer James Cameron, believe human expeditions are needed to inspire future ocean research and conservation.
As he says, “The most important aspect of exploration, in my opinion, is coming back and telling the story.”
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