Manta ray photographed by Daniel Vaca, former oceanography student
|"Most of this planet we've never seen. We are
prisoners, confined to a measley 1/3 of its surface."
Consider these Remarkable Ocean Facts:
- the oceans occupy nearly 71% of our planet's surface
- more than 97% of all our planet's water is contained in the ocean
- the top ten feet of the ocean hold as much heat as our entire atmosphere
- the average depth of the ocean is more than 2.5 miles
- the oceans provide 99 percent of the Earth's living space- the largest space in our universe known to be inhabited by living organisms
- more than 90% of this habitat exists in the deep sea known as the abyss
- less than 10% of this living space has been explored by humans
- Mount Everest (the highest point on the Earth's surface 5.49 miles) is more than 1 mile shorter that the Challenger Deep (the deepest point in the ocean at 6.86 miles)
- the longest continuous mountain chain known to exist in the Universe resides in the ocean at more than 40,000 miles long
- the Monterey Bay Submarine Canyon is deeper and larger in volume than the Grand Canyon
- the Antarctic ice sheet that forms and melts over the ocean each year is nearly twice the size of the United States
- the average temperature of the oceans is 2ºC, about 39ºF
- water pressure at the deepest point in the ocean is more than 8 tons per square inch, the equivalent of one person trying to hold 50 jumbo jets.
- cold, saline water that forms off the coast of Iceland can be found in the North Pacific Ocean, about 1000 years later
- the Gulf Stream off the Atlantic seaboard of the United States flows at a rate nearly 300 times faster than the typical flow of the Amazon river, the world's largest river
- the world ocean contains nearly 20 million tons of gold
- the color blue is least absorbed by seawater; the same shade of blue is most absorbed by microscopic plants, called phytoplankton, drifting in seawater
- a new form of life, based on chemical energy rather than light energy, resides in deep-sea hydrothermal vents along mid-ocean ridges
- a swallow of seawater may contain millions of bacterial cells, hundreds of thousands of phytoplankton and tens of thousands of zooplankton
- the blue whale, the largest animal on our planet ever (exceeding the size of the greatest dinosaurs) still lives in the ocean; it's heart is the size of a Volkswagen
- the gray whale migrates more than 10,000 miles each year, the longest migration of any mammal
- the swordfish and marlin are the fastest fish in the ocean, reaching speeds up to 75 miles per hour in quick bursts; the bluefin tuna may reach sustained speeds up to 55 miles per hour
- many sharks give live birth to their young, a phenomenon called vivipary; rival siblings sometimes eat each other before they are even born
- the Great Barrier Reef, measuring 1,243 miles, is the largest living structure on Earth
- more than 90 percent of the trade between countries is carried by ships and about half the communications between nations use underwater cables
- more oil reaches the oceans each year as a result of leaking automobiles and other non-point sources that was spilled in Prince William Sound by the Exxon Valdez
- fish supply the greatest percentage of the world's protein consumed by humans
- most of the world's major fisheries are being fished at levels above their maximum sustainable yield; some regions are severely overfished
- five species of salmon are now on the endangered species list in the Pacific Northwest, as a result of habitat destruction, logging, overfishing, building of dams and other problems
- the Grand Banks, the pride of New England fishing for centuries, are closed due to overfishing
Pretty dope, huh?
I think by now you've grasped the idea that oceanography covers a lot of territory. But don't be overwhelmed. We've got a lot of time to examine the bits and pieces so that by the time we arrive at our final destination, we will have gained an appreciation for that grand and mysterious living being we call the ocean.
Attitude check: Are you excited yet? Can you begin to see how oceanography includes a great number of subjects and disciplines? If you're not sure, then go back to the beginning of these notes and read again. And when you start to get that tingling feeling in the back of your head, read on! We're just getting our feet wet.
Got a remarkable ocean fact? Contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org