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  • We've explored the jungles, the deserts, the arctic, even the moon.

  • But one place still remains a mostly uncharted mystery; our oceans.

  • Oceans cover about 70% of Earth's surface, but we know more about the geography of Mars

  • than we do about what lies on the bottom of the sea.

  • But all that might change.

  • Around the world people are looking to finally reveal the secrets of our deep oceans for

  • both scientific and economic gains.

  • So, how close are we to completely mapping the ocean?

  • For thousands of years people have taken to the seas with the goal of finding out just

  • how deep our oceans are.

  • This mainly consisted of tying a weight to a long rope and throwing it over the side

  • of a boat.

  • This is actually how we discovered the deepest part of the ocean,

  • Mariana Trench.

  • Since then we've obviously advanced with our technology, and have actually already

  • used satellites to map the entire ocean.

  • Kind of.

  • The way that they do satellite mapping of the ocean, they use altimetry.

  • As the satellite is passing over an orbit, if there's a higher concentration of rock,

  • or sea mounts, or anything that's beneath the ocean surface, the increased gravity actually

  • causes some of the water to collect around the top of it and they

  • can measure the different heights of the ocean surface.

  • Using certain algorithms and processing that data, they can actually get a decent representation

  • of what it's like down there.

  • But decent isn't good enough.

  • Satellite mapping only gives us about a 5km resolution of the ocean floor, meaning we

  • can see features and objects larger than 5km across.

  • To put that in context, most of Mars has been mapped to 6m and almost all of Venus and 100%

  • of the moon has been mapped to 100m.

  • Less than 10% of our oceans, and maybe closer to 5%, have been mapped to this detail.

  • that really is disappointing for a marine biologist, really disappointing for anyone

  • who's thinking about doing business on the oceans, managing the oceans, thinking about

  • how to get what we need from the future of the oceans...We're sort of fumbling around

  • in the dark

  • Having a detailed map would greatly change how we use the ocean.

  • It would help with safety, like charting potential hazards that could take down a ship.

  • It could lead to more accurate climate models, better understand tsunami dangers and improved

  • weather predictions.

  • It would help with laying down ocean cables, fiber optics and pipes.

  • However, it could also help advance the exploitation of the ocean's natural resources, like those

  • precious metals used to create your cell phone.

  • But having a detailed map will help us better understand how to protect the ocean when the

  • inevitable rush to further exploit it begins.

  • The International Seabed Authority, which is in charge of overseeing seabed mining on

  • the high seas, part of its charge is to set up some areas of special biological interest

  • that will not be mined and putting them in the right places, in places that matter for

  • biodiversity and matter for ocean function, requires knowing what's down there...so you

  • don't mine, for example, a rainforest and put your protected area in a desert, right?

  • So ocean mapping may be this double edged sword.

  • On one side, people are trying to map the ocean to help understand and protect it, making

  • geological and biological discoveries along the way.

  • Others are trying understand and exploit it, potentially harming the ocean floor as they

  • go.

  • But these two factions might work together to achieve a goal that could see both sides

  • benefiting.

  • How do you manage what you don't understand

  • We can map out things like manganese nodules,

  • that have the potential for copper and nickel and cobalt.

  • We depend on ocean mapping for before any kind of oil explorations done

  • they must map the seafloor

  • both the surface and the subsurface of the seafloor,

  • and in this case, here we're going to get a full understanding

  • through mapping what's there

  • and then can set up the appropriate management approaches

  • So if everyone wants this map, why hasn't it been done yet?

  • Well, it'll cost a lot of money.

  • and take a lot of time.

  • Maybe as much as 200 ship years.

  • So with the current day technology, it would take about 200 years for one ship to map the

  • whole ocean or 200 ships one year.

  • The question is the cost.

  • We've estimated that to map the entire ocean at a reasonable level of resolution would

  • cost on the order of three billion dollars and you'd say, "Wow, gee, who would ever spend

  • three billion dollars to map a planet?"

  • And I point to the fact that we've sent missions to the moon which cost on the order of 600

  • million dollars or so and mapped the moon much better than we've mapped our planet.

  • We've sent missions to Mars, many missions to Mars.

  • Each one of those missions cost between two and three billion dollars.

  • And so we have the will to do that.

  • One way to cut down on cost would be to do it faster, and the good news is that's the

  • plan.

  • What started as throwing a weight over the side of the boat has turned into utilizing

  • acoustic waves.

  • By sending hundreds of laser-like beams of sound into the ocean and measuring how long

  • it takes to bounce back, scientists can more accurately image the ocean depths.

  • We're also trying to develop techniques to speed that up, to do it more quickly.

  • And to do it maybe with autonomous vessels, vessels that will be more efficient that you

  • don't have to have a crew on and send autonomous vessels out for months at a time and let them

  • start collecting the data

  • To put out drones that would go out and do it autonomously, that's a new forefront that's

  • developing at the moment, but that's still in its infancy.

  • The amount of drones that would need to go out to perform this, that's something that

  • they're still building on.

  • So yes, one day in the near future our oceans may be teeming with underwater drones or crew-less

  • ships, crisscrossing the planet, collecting and sending data that will be transformed

  • into a 3D map of our oceans.

  • Which is another hurdle we still need to figure out, what to do with all this data?

  • There's also a major challenge of trying to mass collect and synthesize this data

  • It's one thing to have the data stored on 500,000 hard drives and 500,000 vessels, but

  • you need to get put all together in the same place.

  • And one boldly named group, Seabed 2030, is looking to lead that fight.

  • The collaborative project between the Nippon Foundation and GEBCO, is aiming to gather

  • all the bathymetric data and produce the world's first highly detailed ocean map, and do it

  • by 2030.

  • It's amazing how every time we go out to map in unknown waters, we find something we didn't

  • know about.

  • It's that kind of discovery and exploration that really drives at least me in terms of

  • ocean mapping.

  • And it's that passion, along with their hard work, that has given those in the community

  • the ability work with and root for Seabed 2030 and their nearing deadline.

  • They could certainly use more resources if they're gonna get close to hitting that goal,

  • but I'm gonna go ahead and commit the least aspiration, I'm gonna hope that they're right

  • that we'll have the oceans mapped by 2030.

  • I think, the global initiative to have it done by 2030 is going to be quite an undertaking.

  • It's going to depend on developing technology and a concerted effort from different players,

  • but I'm optimistic and I think it will happen at some point.

  • We need a detailed map of the ocean to better understand the ocean, and to do this we need

  • people, ships, advanced technology, global cooperation and of course, money.

  • So, how close are we to mapping the entire ocean?

  • Well, all eyes are on Seabed 2030 and their goal to have a complete, public map by well,

  • 2030.

  • We're gonna give it our darndest to do.

  • It's a very, very ambitious goal.

  • I'm not sure we will get a hundred percent there but we're certainly gonna make some

  • strides toward that.

  • So that's our goal is to see it all mapped by 2030.

  • Thanks so much for watching another episode of How Close Are We.

  • If you have any ideas for future episodes, let us know in the comments.

  • And if you want to watch more Seeker ocean content, click over here to watch the Swim,

  • an ongoing series about one man's journey to swim across the Pacific Ocean.

We've explored the jungles, the deserts, the arctic, even the moon.

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B1 US ocean map mapping mapped data cost

How Close Are We to Completely Mapping the Ocean?

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    joey joey posted on 2021/04/16
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