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  • Every nation that's a coastal state

  • has some region of the seafloor that falls

  • within their territorial waters and many countries,

  • including the U.S. the area that's underwater

  • exceeds the area that's above water.

  • So huge amounts of nation's areas

  • and regions are just really unexplored, uncharacterized.

  • We don't really know what's there.

  • We know less about our seabed

  • than we do about the surface of the Moon or Mars.

  • Only 20% of it has been mapped.

  • A map of the seafloor could lead to all kinds

  • of discoveries, like new marine species

  • and rare earth minerals, like cobalt

  • that we need for electric cars and mobile phones.

  • The value of all the gold deposits alone on the seafloor

  • is estimated to be around $150 trillion.

  • A map could also help us when tragedy strikes.

  • Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared

  • from radar screens.

  • The mapping of the ocean floor is being carried out.

  • The problem is that the Southern Indian Ocean

  • is just so incredibly huge.

  • To me a map is a fundamental piece of understanding

  • of who we are, where we are, where things are.

  • Once you understand something, you start to value it more

  • and when you start to value something,

  • that's when you start to really think about

  • making it healthy and preserving it and keeping it going.

  • A map is the first step,

  • it's the basic understanding that you need

  • to figure out where you are.

  • Oceans,

  • they cover over 70% of the planet

  • but most of what lies underneath is a mystery.

  • The seafloor is a really fascinating landscape.

  • We don't have a lot of data

  • to describe the shape of it in detail

  • but in places where we do there are spectacular features.

  • There's meandering channels

  • with all kinds of interesting topography.

  • There are canyons, there are seamounts, mid-ocean ridges,

  • all kinds of things that we see on land

  • that are just basically hidden from us by the water.

  • As it stands, this is what a map of the seabed looks like.

  • All that black, those are the parts we haven't mapped yet.

  • At present most people think

  • that the seafloor is actually mapped

  • because you'll see a world ocean map,

  • and you can see some shape of the seafloor.

  • But most of that is based on prediction.

  • Roughly 80% of what you see for the world ocean floor

  • is modeled based on measurements of the sea surface height

  • and a computation based on gravity.

  • In 2017, The Nippon Foundation

  • and the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans or GEBCO

  • launched Seabed 2030.

  • It's a collaborative project to collect

  • and collate data oceanwide

  • and create a complete map of the seafloor

  • by the end of the decade.

  • To do this would take one ship around 350 years

  • at a cost of up to $3 billion.

  • That's why data is harvested by all kinds of vessels

  • from fishing boats to freighters.

  • Because there is so little data

  • it's important that vessels that are capable

  • and willing to acquire data when they're just moving

  • around the ocean, do so.

  • So we have a lot of data that's collected during transits.

  • There's a lot of academic requirements

  • to make data publicly available.

  • There's industry data that's starting to become more

  • and more available, there's government data.

  • So there's a lot of different ways

  • that this data is coming in, and it's a really messy

  • and challenging puzzle to put together.

  • But what's exciting is that it's a puzzle to put together.

  • Since Seabed 2030 launched,

  • the area mapped has risen to 20%

  • and all the information collected is freely available.

  • The more data we have collectively

  • and other people can access,

  • the faster the discoveries are made.

  • Which really pushes forward our understanding

  • at a faster rate than if you held onto that data

  • and it was only you with that data.

  • Things like machine learning

  • and artificial intelligence are also going to kick in

  • in the next decade, because with all this data

  • they'll be able to make connections a lot faster

  • than perhaps we would have been able to.

  • Which then again, feeds our human understanding

  • and also gives us new ideas

  • and new ways of thinking, of exploration.

  • Until the early 20th century

  • mapping technology was simple.

  • Usually a weight attached to a long rope

  • known as a lead line.

  • After the Titanic sank in 1912,

  • explorers proposed using sound waves to find its hull

  • in the North Atlantic.

  • This led to sonar,

  • the most common technique used for mapping today.

  • Operated by the Schmidt Ocean Institute,

  • the Falkor is an 82 meter long research vessel

  • equipped with two multibeam sonar systems

  • that have helped Deborah Smith

  • and a team of other marine technicians

  • to map over a million square kilometers of the seafloor.

  • You know, you go from somebody

  • with a rope with some knots to sonar acoustics that is,

  • I call it math magic,

  • but it is incredibly advanced mathematical technology

  • to be able to measure the distance

  • and time of travel of sound on a moving ship.

  • Multibeam mapping works by using sonars.

  • So sonar is taking sound and the measurement of time.

  • So you have a multibeam sonar

  • and it sends out a ping of sound.

  • That sound travels through the water column,

  • hits the seafloor and comes back to the ship

  • and we measure that time

  • and we're able to calculate the distance.

  • Each individual ping of sound has many, many beams.

  • So it looks like a giant fan across the seafloor

  • and that fan is moving along the seafloor.

  • So you have many tiny, little beams going across

  • and they're traveling along a track.

  • You can look at that data and look at both the peaks

  • and the valleys and the highs and the lows

  • and sort of create a three-dimensional image

  • of the seafloor.

  • The accuracy of multibeam sonar really depends

  • on the water depth that you're in.

  • Think of it like a flashlight beam

  • and if you're holding a flashlight

  • and you're shining it on the floor,

  • the closer you get to the floor with your flashlight,

  • the smaller that beam is.

  • If you have 400 of these beams all across,

  • so think of 400 people holding a flashlight.

  • The closer they hold that flashlight to the seafloor,

  • the smaller your beam is which also means the smaller

  • that you can find information or data about.

  • So it really depends on the depth of the seafloor in order

  • to see how much you can define an object.

  • This variation in depth means that mapping resolution

  • will range from 100 x 100 meters in shallow waters

  • to 800 x 800 meters in the deepest parts of the ocean,

  • which go down as far as 11,000 meters.

  • Remotely operated vehicles or ROV's can then be sent down

  • to investigate seabed features up close.

  • We've just crossed the 1,000 meter mark.

  • It's 4.6 degrees C and now we're gonna drive the ROV down

  • at a high rate towards the seafloor.

  • On a recent mapping expedition,

  • scientists on the Falkor discovered

  • a 500-meter-tall coral structure

  • in Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

  • The first to be discovered in over 120 years.

  • A place that is incredibly popular, well visited,

  • well-traveled, you know, we're still finding new things.

  • You don't know until you map it.

  • And so until you get that sort of high-resolution picture

  • you don't know the sand waves

  • or the old riverbeds that used to be there

  • or the waterfalls off the side of a volcano

  • that used to be above the surface

  • and now is below the surface.

  • It's a little bit of everything.

  • Think of, let's say Hawaii or someplace

  • where you see a volcano above the water.

  • Picture that below the water.

  • I'm really kind of obsessed

  • with the whole concept of scale here.

  • Although we can create 3D models and, you know,

  • kind of come up with these visualizations.

  • It's not the same as that feeling

  • of looking out over this big landscape.

  • But I mean, I think we'll get there soon

  • with VR and other kinds of technology, but it's really

  • spectacular to think about,

  • especially with the familiarity that some of us have

  • with these features, like what it looks like.

  • We look out at the ocean and it just looks flat

  • maybe with little bumps.

  • We really don't think about all of this that's underneath

  • and it's really an amazing landscape

  • that's just hidden from us.

  • With more than 90% of the ocean deeper than 200 meters,

  • fleets of autonomous vehicles

  • could make the data gathering process faster,

  • cheaper, and safer

  • and new discoveries might help

  • with exploration of all kinds.

  • I think the ocean can actually provide us

  • with huge insights as we go out into space as well

  • and look for life and other kinds of life forms.

  • I also think in this next few years

  • we will have a different kind of access to the ocean

  • because of virtual reality and augmented reality.

  • And so that will allow us to sit in our living rooms

  • and really experience what's under water in a different way

  • and see this different alien planet.

Every nation that's a coastal state

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B1 US seafloor data ocean mapping map sonar

Mapping the Secrets of Earth’s Seabed

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    joey joey posted on 2021/07/07
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