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Techly Explains

Techly Explains: Why we know more about the moon than the ocean floor

It’s a statistic which is thrown around a lot, but is it really true that we’ve only explored 5% of the ocean?

Well, the short answer is yes.

What’s even crazier is that we actually know more about the moon, Mars and Venus, than we do about the ocean – something which covers 70% of the Earth’s surface.

Whilst all of this is true, it’s actually a little more complicated than a “cba” attitude.

The issue, according to The Conversation, is that we can’t use satellites to map the ocean’s bottom in the same way we use them to map land. This is because seawater prevents the use of electromagnetic radiation waves.

What we do have is a new global map of the world which has been mapped to 5km resolution. This basically means we can see features which are larger than 5km long in these new maps.

The previous map of the world had a resolution of 20km, so in comparison to this, we’re actually doing pretty well.

By this standard, we have mapped the bottom of the ocean to a 5km resolution, which gives us the ability to see the key ridges and trenches. However, it still remains “unexplored”.

The presence of water makes life really hard for satellites to map the Earth, and because satellites are the only devices currently capable of mapping the entire surface of a planet, scientists use the technology to explore our neighbours in the solar system.

An alternative for accurate mapping is sonar system aboard ships, where scientists can map at a 100m resolution.

Pretty nifty, hey?

Unfortunately, this is only possible via a track below the ship. Given the ocean’s size and the scientific analysis necessary, this would take a REALLY long old time.

So for now, we’re looking to apply sonar technology to a more efficient method of mapping.

And that, friends, is why we’ve explored only 5% of the ocean.

Think about that next time you take a dip in the sea – who knows what’s lurking underneath? Certainly not us.

About the author

Alice is a Londoner who quit her 9 – 5 job and bought a one way ticket to Sydney. Usually found pining after Leonardo DiCaprio, drinking red wine and keeping her Instagram “on point” via @alicesantics.

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