Author: Adrienne Bernhard
Geologists have charted mountain ranges and forests and desert tundras, astronomers the heavens above, yet our planet’s oceans remain largely unexplored; it’s often said that we have a more complete understanding of the Moon or Mars than we do of our own seabed.
The sea’s terrain plays a critical role in our ecosystem. Underwater crests and valleys determine weather patterns and ocean currents; sea topography influences the management of fisheries that feed millions; miles of underwater cable connect billions more to the Internet; seamounts provide protection against coastal hazards such as approaching hurricanes or tsunamis, and may even offer clues to the prehistoric movement of the earth’s southern continents.
In 2017, an international team of experts from around the world, united under the non-profit General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (Gebco), launched the first effort to create a comprehensive map of the world’s oceans.
While the earliest oceanographers trawled waters one painstaking knot at a time, recent advances in sonar technology mean that a single ship can now provide thousands of square kilometers’ worth of high-resolution maps during an expedition.
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