Ocean Mapping

ocean mapping

Ocean mapping as it turns out is more important than just knowing what lies under what covers some 70% of the earth’s surface. Understanding the seafloor is important for safe navigation, for conservation efforts, for fisheries management because marine wildlife congregates around underwater mountains. But ocean mapping also has another function. It influences ocean currents and how water mixes in a vertical way, information which is relevant to climate since oceans play a pivotal role in moving heat around the planet, and  therefore it has a role to play in the information needed for the models  forecasting future climate change. The International Bathymetric Chart of the Southern  Ocean has undertaken the project of mapping the ocean floor around Antarctica. It’s obviously a huge undertaking and is now only 23% done, that is of 18.3 million square  miles. Not a small feat.  They have discovered mountains, canyons, plains, valleys, depressions they did not realize were there. The deepest depression to date called the Factorian Deep is 24,383 feet. That  depth means even more when one realizes that Mount Everest, the tallest mountain on the surface of the Earth is 29,032 feet.  The undertaking asks ships and boats to use their sonars, and also urges government, institutions and corporations to share their data and put it in the public domain. It is something that is paying off. Much of the information, however, comes from ice strengthened ships that are able to support scientific endeavors.  That includes the UK’s RRS James Clark Ross which is soon to be replaced by the aptly named RRS Sir David Attenborough.  The nature and size of the project are certainly impressive, their results can’t help but awe us and the fact that it is such an international endeavor given such a fractured world is notable too.

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