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Ocean Depths
Photo and Video Source: NOAA

The ocean has held mysteries for man since the beginning of time. It was thought to be the home of monsters, and still is by some. People thought that if you sailed far enough across the ocean you would fall off of the edge of the earth. With a few tiny exceptions man was content to sail atop the ocean. A little more than 100 years ago man invented a machine that would sail below the ocean depths. Actually there were other machine before this like the turtle, a barrel with paddles that sailed slightly under the water and the Confederate submarine Hunley which was man powered and again didn't really go very deep and had to be rescued several times after it sunk and killed its crews. The ocean bottom is the most unexplored place on earth. But why is this so? The reason is simple, water pressure.

Flatfish laying on ocean bottom near vent

The U.S. Navy officially admits that its submarines can dive more than 800 feet but the exact depth is classified. And they are very safe. We have only lost two nuclear submarines in the history of the navy, one was the USS Thresher on April 10, 1963 and the other was the USS Scorpion on May 27, 1968. Since these boats were built the standards for building U.S. submarines has been improved many times over. But back to pressure. The pressure of water is caused by the weight of the water above the point where you are at, that's why the deeper you go under water the more the water pressure increases. If someone could invent an antigravity machine and put it in a submarine and aim it at the water above the sub, there would no longer be pressure on the sub and it could be made out of tin foil and still dive to the ocean depths.

Scientists have divided the ocean into five layers:

0 - 199 meters - Epipelagic Zone
200 - 999 meters - Mesopelagic Zone
1000 - 3999 meters - Bathypelagic Zone
4000 - 5999 meters- Abyssopelagic Zone
6000 meters and below - Hadalpelagic Zone

The water pressure on the bottom of the ocean in the deep parts is hundreds of times what the pressure it is on the earth. If a person was to try and walk on the bottom of the ocean he or she would be squashed to the size of a soccer ball. If a submarine could be built to go down to the deepest part of the ocean it would be severely limited in performance rendering it useless to the navy as a weapon. As you descend through the zones listed above, the pressure and cold increase tremendously. It also gets very dark.

Tubeworms

We are finding a lot of unknown creatures the deeper we go. Even fishermen who let nets out deeper and deeper are coming up with strange things and species of fish that were thought to be extinct. Some Japanese fishermen came up with something that looked like a dinosaur a few years back and a Tile fish was discovered that everyone thought was long extinct. Some of the creatures from the deep part of the ocean have no eyes. It is so dark down there that they wouldn't be able to see anyway.

Recently scientists feel that they have come closer to finding the Giant Squid of legend. They think that these monsters which may become a hundred feet long may live as deep as 10,000 feet in the ocean. This would explain why no one has ever seen a Giant Squid alive. To prove whether or not these creatures actually are alive, they are sending remote controlled cameras which have bait attached to them to the depths of over two miles down. These cameras must be put inside special cases to resist the tremendous pressures at that level. A Giant Squid attack has never been confirmed even though stories are full of them.

How deep is the ocean at its deepest point, here are some interesting figures:

Arctic Ocean - 17.880 feet
Indian Ocean - 25,344 feet
Atlantic Ocean - 28,374 feet
Pacific Ocean - 36,198 feet (almost 7 miles deep)

For comparison, NASA lists Mt. Everest at 29, 035 feet.

In 2002, for the first time, crabs and mussels were brought up alive from a depth of over 1.5 miles down, they survive by chemosynthesis. They use hydrogen sulfide from the heat vents as an energy source since there is no sunlight at that depth. The waters near these deep sea vents are poisonous to most sea creatures but needed by these animals to live. The hot water by the vents where these animals live has no oxygen but they get it from the cold water that surrounds the hot water.

Plume coming from vent at ocean bottom

Arthur C. Clarke was so right when he said, "How inappropriate to call this planet Earth, when clearly it is Ocean." .

One of the places in the Pacific Ocean that has drawn the most interest is the Mariana Trench. This is the deepest part of the ocean and goes down almost seven miles. In 1960 a diving record was set there of 35,800 feet by the bathyscaph Trieste. This trench stirs the imagination of every explorer. Going there, if that were possible, would be a feat greater than climbing Mt. Everest. I am not talking in terms of physical exhaustion here, I am talking in terms of danger, unknown hazards, utter blackness and pressures that would crush a truck.

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There are a lot of strange things under the sea and one of them is the world's largest mountain range. The range is over 35,000 miles long and goes around the world. It is called the Mid-Ocean Ridge system. It was created by the plates in the crust of the earth moving apart. It is so geologically active that it is the most active place on the planet earth. This is were you will find a lot of volcanos and vents.



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