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The Sound of Science - 'Exploring the ocean floor'


The Sound of Science - 'Exploring the ocean floor'

Welcome to The Sound of Science from WNIJ and NIU STEAM. It’s a weekly series explaining important STEM concepts. Today’s hosts are Jeremy Benson and Newt Likier.

Today we have a question here from Lindsay who asks, how much of the ocean floor have we actually explored?

Believe it or not, we’ve actually mapped more of the moon’s surface than we have of our own ocean floor. It’s estimated that we’ve only explored about eighty percent of our oceans so far. That said, it’s hard to say just how much is left uncovered in terms of physical space, biodiversity, and geological studies—just to name a few areas.

One of the main reasons we’re still working on that last twenty percent is that the scientists studying the ocean floor are under immense pressure. Like, literally. The deepest part of the known ocean is called the Marianas Trench. At more than 36 thousand feet below sea level, the Trench is deeper than Mount Everest is tall, by over a mile.

That far down, the pressure is over one thousand times higher than at sea level. Building a vehicle that can safely withstand that amount of pressure is very difficult, and very expensive. However, as technology has improved over the last several decades, explorers have been able to reach the bottom of the trench using unmanned vehicles.

A handful of manned dives have also been attempted over the years, but more people have walked on the moon than those who’ve reached the bottom of the Trench.

All of these trips have uncovered amazing insights into the world below the waves. Using sonar, we’ve been able to piece together an image of the geological formation of the Marianas Trench. Various other deep-sea missions have brought back samples and pictures of strange plants and animals that had never seen before.

And after looking at those pictures, I still wish I hadn’t seen a few of them.

Some of them do look pretty alien. Outer space may be known as the final frontier, but our oceans here on earth are still teeming with strange life and new discoveries just waiting to be uncovered. And we still need brave, curious individuals willing to be the pioneers venturing into those unknown depths. Maybe one of them could be you!

If there’s anything you want to learn about the world, submit your questions to niusteam@niu.edu

This has been the Sound of Science on WNIJ. Where you learn something new every day.

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