The Ocean Just Got a Little Less Mysterious

Scientists have mapped nearly a fifth of the ocean floor
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 21, 2020 2:00 PM CDT
A Fifth of This World Has Come Into View
Sunlight at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea.   (Getty Images)

Wish you could see the ocean floor? A project to map the entire surface by 2030 is making headway and has nearly a fifth of it completed, the BBC reports. The Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project began in 2017 with only 6% mapped, so it's moving at a decent clip—with a lot of ocean floor still to go. "We've got another 81% of the oceans still to survey, still to map," says project director Jamie McMichael-Phillips. "That's an area about twice the size of Mars that we have to capture in the next decade." Much of their information comes from governments, institutions, and companies that had it stored away, and Reuters reports that more should roll in over the next year.

For that, GEBCO is relying on a worldwide crowdsourcing endeavor that involves ships rigged with echo-sounding equipment. Among them, British research ships have already mapped the Drake Passage between South America and Antarctica, and a company called Ocean Infinity is building a fleet of robotic vessels to conduct sea-floor studies. "We need all these individuals to come together if we're to deliver an ocean map that is absolutely fundamental and essential to humankind," says McMichael-Phillips. Benefits are likely to include better navigation, laying of underwater pipelines and cables, and climate-change models that depend on maps of the ocean floor. (Read more ocean stories.)

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