For centuries the ocean has been the most puzzling and appealing region of the planet. Have you ever wondered why will it probably remain the most mysterious part of the world?
“The Sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”
― Jacques-Yves Cousteau
We’re inherently curious about our surroundings. The vastness of the ocean, noticeably greater than land, sparked the interest of many to explore it and dominate it. Since the first human groups decided to go beyond the limits of what they knew, the natural step for them was to build something that could let them explore the ocean and find its limits. Just as they started exploring the sea surface, and seeing its wonders and dangers, a new question emerged: what lies underneath?
It's believed that the first explorations to the sea’s depth were made by the Vikings. No wonder why they’ve always been considered the ultimate navigators in history. They created some sort of weight with a hole attached to a very long rope. They would throw it and when it reached the bottom (or at least what they thought was the seabed), they moved it to collect specimen, and then pulled it back. In that way, they could see what was lying under the ocean, as well as its depth. Of course, they weren’t nearly close, but they started a long tradition of exploration that still prevails.
That thirst for exploring every single corner of the planet inspired many scientists, rulers, inventors, philosophers, and explorers to set sail and reach the unimaginable. It’s said, for instance, that the first submarine was invented in the seventeenth century by a Dutch architect called Cornelius Drebbel, who was working for the English navy. Though impressed, King James I didn’t think it could be useful for war, so it was forgotten. Perhaps that would be the last time the monarchy neglected the exploration of the sea and the development of tools to do so.
In the next century, French scientist Pierre-Simon Laplace realized the importance of fully understanding the sea as means of power and knowledge. He’s credited for starting the modern sea explorations due to his accurate calculations of the depth of the Atlantic ocean based on the tidal motions from West Africa and Brazil. His estimations: an average of 13,000 ft, which throughout the years has remained the same.
However, the most important exploration that has been ever made, even greater than the ones that have been conducted nowadays, was that of the British HMS Challenger in 1872. In just four years of exploration, they managed to discover 4,417 new marine species, including animals and plants. At the time, there was a popular theory called the Azoic Theory stating that the deepest regions of the sea were so inhospitable that there was no life existing there.
With the HMS Challenger, the theory was absolutely debunked. Inspired by Darwin’s evolution theory, scientists set sail to prove a completely new theory. Darwin stated that evolution was absolutely related to adaptation of the environment, and for that reason, they believed that the deep sea worked as a time capsule with no changes in the environment, and thus, the species have remained the same since the creation of the earth. Their discoveries showed that, even in this inhospitable region, creatures adapted and evolved, but more importantly, that there was still so much to discover and understand.
To start with, the idea of the seabed being flat proved to be mistaken. Since the HMS Challenger, scientists have devoted a lot of effort in analyzing and taking samples of the chain of mountains that form the sea floor. By now, it's been proven that the ocean is as vast, if not more, as the life on ground. Oceans cover about 70 percent of the planet’s surface and, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an estimated of 1 to 5 percent of the seabed has been explored. Why is that?
To start with, believe it or not, there’s no technology available to go as deep as the ocean is estimated to be. The pressure and conditions of these levels are so extreme that it’s quite impossible to send someone with our current equipment. Besides that, the economic part is also a great issue. Not only is it physically difficult, but also extremely expensive. Moreover, and quite sadly, the international interest in the development of technology and projects is more focused on other areas, like space. If you think about it, more people have actually walked on the moon than on the depths of the sea. As a consequence, only 556 ft of seabed have been explored, meaning that there are about 12,400 ft that are still unknown to the human sight.
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