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  • The first question is this.

  • Our country has two exploration programs.

  • One is NASA, with a mission to explore the great beyond,

  • to explore the heavens, which we all want to go to if we're lucky.

  • And you can see we have Sputnik, and we have Saturn,

  • and we have other manifestations of space exploration.

  • Well, there's also another program,

  • in another agency within our government, in ocean exploration.

  • It's in NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

  • And my question is this: "why are we ignoring the oceans?"

  • Here's the reason, or not the reason, but here's why I ask that question.

  • If you compare NASA's annual budget to explore the heavens,

  • that one-year budget would fund NOAA's budget

  • to explore the oceans for 1,600 years.

  • Why? Why are we looking up? Is it because it's heaven?

  • And hell is down here? Is it a cultural issue?

  • Why are people afraid of the ocean?

  • Or do they just assume the ocean is just a dark, gloomy place

  • that has nothing to offer?

  • I'm going to take you on a 16-minute trip on 72 percent of the planet, so buckle up.

  • OK. And what we're going to do

  • is we're going to immerse ourselves in my world.

  • And what I'm going to try -- I hope I make the following points.

  • I'm going to make it right now in case I forget.

  • Everything I'm going to present to you

  • was not in my textbooks when I went to school.

  • And most of all, it was not even in my college textbooks.

  • I'm a geophysicist, and all my Earth science books when I was a student --

  • I had to give the wrong answer to get an A.

  • We used to ridicule continental drift. It was something we laughed at.

  • We learned of Marshall Kay's geosynclinal cycle, which is a bunch of crap.

  • In today's context, it was a bunch of crap,

  • but it was the law of geology, vertical tectonics.

  • All the things we're going to walk through

  • in our explorations and discoveries of the oceans

  • were mostly discoveries made by accident.

  • Mostly discoveries made by accident.

  • We were looking for something and found something else.

  • And everything we're going to talk about

  • represents a one tenth of one percent glimpse, because that's all we've seen.

  • I have a characterization.

  • This is a characterization of what it would look like if you could remove the water.

  • It gives you the false impression it's a map.

  • It is not a map.

  • In fact, I have another version at my office

  • and I ask people, "Why are there mountains here, on this area here,

  • but there are none over here?" And they go, "Well, gee,

  • I don't know," saying,

  • "Is it a fracture zone? Is it a hot spot?"

  • No, no, that's the only place a ship's been.

  • Most of the southern hemisphere is unexplored.

  • We had more exploration ships down there

  • during Captain Cook's time than now. It's amazing.

  • All right. So we're going to immerse ourselves

  • in the 72 percent of the planet because, you know,

  • it's really naive to think that the Easter Bunny

  • put all the resources on the continents.

  • (Laughter)

  • You know, it's just ludicrous.

  • We are always, constantly playing the zero sum game.

  • You know, we're going to do this, we're going to take it away from something else.

  • I believe in just enriching the economy.

  • And we're leaving so much on the table, 72 percent of the planet.

  • And as I will point out later in the presentation,

  • 50 percent of the United States of America lies beneath the sea.

  • 50 percent of our country that we own, have all legal jurisdiction,

  • have all rights to do whatever we want, lies beneath the sea

  • and we have better maps of Mars than that 50 percent.

  • Why? OK. Now, I began my explorations the hard way.

  • Back then -- actually my first expedition

  • was when I was 17 years old. It was 49 years ago.

  • Do the math, I'm 66. And I went out to sea on a Scripps ship

  • and we almost got sunk by a giant rogue wave,

  • and I was too young to be -- you know, I thought it was great!

  • I was a body surfer and I thought, "Wow, that was an incredible wave!"

  • And we almost sank the ship, but I became enraptured

  • with mounting expeditions. And over the last 49 years,

  • I've done about 120, 121 -- I keep doing them -- expeditions.

  • But in the early days, the only way I could get to the bottom

  • was to crawl into a submarine, a very small submarine,

  • and go down to the bottom.

  • I dove in a whole series of different deep diving submersibles.

  • Alvin and Sea Cliff and Cyana,

  • and all the major deep submersibles we have, which are about eight.

  • In fact, on a good day, we might have four or five human beings

  • at the average depth of the Earth --

  • maybe four or five human beings out of whatever billions we've got going.

  • And so it's very difficult to get there, if you do it physically.

  • But I was enraptured, and in my graduate years

  • was the dawn of plate tectonics. And we realized

  • that the greatest mountain range on Earth lies beneath the sea.

  • The mid-ocean ridge runs around like the seam on a baseball.

  • This is on a Mercator projection.

  • But if you were to put it on an equal area projection,

  • you'd see that the mid-ocean ridge covers 23 percent

  • of the Earth's total surface area.

  • Almost a quarter of our planet is a single mountain range

  • and we didn't enter it until after Neil Armstrong

  • and Buzz Aldrin went to the moon.

  • So we went to the moon, played golf up there,

  • before we went to the largest feature on our own planet.

  • And our interest in this mountain range, as Earth scientists in those days,

  • was not only because of its tremendous size, dominating the planet,

  • but the role it plays in the genesis of the Earth's outer skin.

  • Because it's along the axis of the mid-ocean ridge

  • where the great crustal plates are separating.

  • And like a living organism, you tear it open,

  • it bleeds its molten blood, rises up to heal that wound

  • from the asthenosphere, hardens, forms new tissue and moves laterally.

  • But no one had actually gone down

  • into the actual site of the boundary of creation as we call it --

  • into the Rift Valley -- until a group of seven of us

  • crawled in our little submarines in the summer of 1973, 1974

  • and were the first human beings to enter the Great Rift Valley.

  • We went down into the Rift Valley.

  • This is all accurate except for one thing -- it's pitch black.

  • It's absolutely pitch black, because

  • photons cannot reach the average depth of the ocean,

  • which is 12,000 feet. In the Rift Valley, it's 9,000 feet.

  • Most of our planet does not feel the warmth of the sun.

  • Most of our planet is in eternal darkness.

  • And for that reason, you do not have photosynthesis in the deep sea.

  • And with the absence of photosynthesis

  • you have no plant life, and as a result,

  • you have very little animal life living in this underworld.

  • Or so we thought. And so in our initial explorations,

  • we were totally focused on exploring the boundary of creation,

  • looking at the volcanic features running along that entire 42,000 miles.

  • Running along this entire 42,000 miles

  • are tens of thousands of active volcanoes.

  • Tens of thousands of active volcanoes.

  • There are more active volcanoes beneath the sea

  • than on land by two orders of magnitude.

  • So, it's a phenomenally active region,

  • it's not just a dark, boring place. It's a very alive place.

  • And it's then being ripped open.

  • But we were dealing with a particular scientific issue back then.

  • We couldn't understand why you had a mountain under tension.

  • In plate tectonic theory, we knew that if you had plates collide,

  • it made sense: they would crush into one another,

  • you would thicken the crust, you'd uplift it.

  • That's why you get, you know, you get seashells up on Mount Everest.

  • It's not a flood, it was pushed up there.

  • We understood mountains under compression,

  • but we could not understand why we had a mountain under tension.

  • It should not be. Until one of my colleagues said,

  • "It looks to me like a thermal blister, and the mid-ocean ridge

  • must be a cooling curve." We said, "Let's go find out."

  • We punched a bunch of heat probes. Everything made sense,

  • except, at the axis, there was missing heat. It was missing heat.

  • It was hot. It wasn't hot enough.

  • So, we came up with multiple hypotheses:

  • there's little green people down there taking it;

  • there's all sorts of things going on.

  • But the only logical [explanation] was that there were hot springs.

  • So, there must be underwater hot springs.

  • We mounted an expedition to look for the missing heat.

  • And so we went along this mountain range, in an area along Galapagos Rift,

  • and did we find the missing heat.

  • It was amazing. These giant chimneys, huge giant chimneys.

  • We went up to them with our submersible.

  • We wanted to get a temperature probe, we stuck it in there,

  • looked at it -- it pegged off scale.

  • The pilot made this great observation: "That's hot."

  • (Laughter)

  • And then we realized our probe was made out of the same stuff --

  • it could have melted. But it turns out the exiting temperature

  • was 650 degrees F, hot enough to melt lead.

  • This is what a real one looks like, on the Juan de Fuca Ridge.

  • What you're looking at is an incredible pipe organ

  • of chemicals coming out of the ocean.

  • Everything you see in this picture is commercial grade:

  • copper, lead, silver, zinc and gold.

  • So the Easter Bunny has put things in the ocean floor,

  • and you have massive heavy metal deposits

  • that we're making in this mountain range.

  • We're making huge discoveries of large commercial-grade ore

  • along this mountain range, but it was dwarfed by what we discovered.

  • We discovered a profusion of life,

  • in a world that it should not exist [in]. Giant tube worms, 10 feet tall.

  • I remember having to use vodka -- my own vodka -- to pickle it

  • because we don't carry formaldehyde.

  • We went and found these incredible clam beds

  • sitting on the barren rock. Large clams,

  • and when we opened them, they didn't look like a clam.

  • And when we cut them open, they didn't have the anatomy of a clam.

  • No mouth, no gut, no digestive system.

  • Their bodies had been totally taken over

  • by another organism, a bacterium, that had figured out

  • how to replicate photosynthesis in the dark,

  • through a process we now call chemosynthesis.

  • None of it in our textbooks. None of this in our textbooks.

  • We did not know about this life system.

  • We were not predicting it.

  • We stumbled on it, looking for some missing heat.

  • So, we wanted to accelerate this process.

  • We wanted to get away from this silly trip, up and down on a submarine:

  • average depth of the ocean, 12,000 feet;

  • two and half hours to get to work in the morning;

  • two and half hours to get to home. Five hour commute to work.

  • Three hours of bottom time, average distance traveled -- one mile.

  • (Laughter)

  • On a 42,000 mile mountain range. Great job security, but not the way to go.

  • So, I began designing a new technology of telepresence,

  • using robotic systems to replicate myself,

  • so I wouldn't have to cycle my vehicle system.

  • We began to introduce that in our explorations,

  • and we continued to make phenomenal discoveries

  • with our new robotic technologies. Again, looking for something else,

  • moving from one part of the mid-ocean ridge to another.

  • The scientists were off watch and they came across incredible life forms.

  • They came across new creatures they had not seen before.

  • But more importantly, they discovered

  • edifices down there that they did not understand.

  • That did not make sense. They were not above a magma chamber.

  • They shouldn't be there. And we called it Lost City.

  • And Lost City was characterized by these incredible limestone formations

  • and upside down pools. Look at that.

  • How do you do that? That's water upside down.

  • We went in underneath and tapped it, and we found that it had the pH of Drano.

  • The pH of 11, and yet it had chemosynthetic bacteria living in it

  • and at this extreme environment.

  • And the hydrothermal vents were in an acidic environment.

  • All the way at the other end, in an alkaline environment,

  • at a pH of 11, life existed.

  • So life was much more creative than we had ever thought.

  • Again, discovered by accident. Just two years ago

  • working off Santorini, where people are sunning themselves on the beach,

  • unbeknownst to them in the caldera nearby,

  • we found phenomenal hydrothermal vent systems

  • and more life systems.

  • This was two miles from where people go to sunbathe,

  • and they were oblivious to the existence of this system.

  • Again, you know, we stop at the water's edge.

  • Recently, diving off -- in the Gulf of Mexico, finding pools of water,

  • this time not upside down, right side up.

  • Bingo. You'd think you're in air, until a fish swims by.

  • You're looking at brine pools formed by salt diapirs.

  • Near that was methane. I've never seen volcanoes of methane.

  • Instead of belching out lava, they were belching out

  • big, big bubbles of methane. And they were creating these volcanoes,

  • and there were flows, not of lava,

  • but of the mud coming out of the Earth but driven by --

  • I've never seen this before.

  • Moving on, there's more than just natural history beneath the sea --