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Friday, August 4, 2017

Ocean Exploration and How It Relates to Oceania

Exploring the mysteries of the deep sea has always been an interest of mine. For the longest time, whenever I saw a documentary, book, or article about the deep sea, I’d immediately devour it. So much below the photic zone is a mystery and little is known about the creatures who live there. Yet, it’s not just the deep sea that is largely unexplored. There are many places in the ocean that are yet to be thoroughly explored and numerous species who have yet to be discovered and described.

In 2010, the Census of Marine Life reported the collective results of a worldwide research effort to document the biological diversity of the ocean. Although ambitious, this marine census collection was crucial to determining a baseline for marine life so that any effects on their diversity and well-being over the years can have a basis for comparison. Over 6,000 (potentially) new species were discovered and a database called the “Ocean Biogeographic Information System” was created to catalog the species of the sea. According to their research, an estimated number of a billion different microbes could live in the ocean (1). Could one of those species be like Geobacter omnescomedenti?

Even though the Census of Marine Life project complied and reported their results in 2010, efforts to explore the ocean continues. There is an entire trust dedicated to exploring the ocean and they’ve lead expeditions every year since 2009. Called the Ocean Exploration Trust, it was founded by Dr. Robert Ballard (discoverer of the final resting place of the Titanic). Just last year they used their vessel—the Nautilus—to explore the waters off the Pacific Coast of North America from Canada all the way to Los Angeles. According to their website, the seafloor of the Southern California Margin is less than 50% mapped in high resolution. During their exploration, they researched bathymetry (the seafloor), marine wildlife, shipwrecks, marine geology, hydrothermal vents, subduction zones, and the abyssal plain (2). Expeditions such as these are crucial to understanding how the ocean impacts our own terrestrial environment and human lives.

So how does ocean exploration relate to Oceania? Well, for one, a good deal of the book is about exploring the ocean and its wonders. I wanted to instill in my readers a curiosity about the ocean and its inhabitants. My first blog posts (after the inspiration for the story) were about the sea creatures that appear in the novel. Some of the creatures I wrote about were easy to find information on, like dolphins, sharks, whales, and sea lions, but others like all of the deep-sea creatures were difficult. Other things like the depth at which Oceania could sit at and where it may be located were more difficult to determine due to the lack of exploration of the deep sea. So instead, I had the founders of Oceania discover the things lacking for our current research on the ocean.

For another, the only way Oceania could exist was because of ocean exploration. In the future world that Oceania exists in, ocean research has come to a point where so much of the seafloor has been mapped that the T2N was able to find a suitable location for the city. In creating the city, there was enough information on ocean species that the underwater city could be designed to be supported without aid from the surface world. Oceania further relates to ocean research partly because the entire city was created to aid in ocean exploration. From living under the sea, it allowed the scientists residing there to have greater access to the ocean environment. Proximity to the focus of study makes any scientific study more efficient than having to constantly travel to your study location. With Oceania in the deep sea, understanding of the undersea world on the seafloor could increase dramatically.

Many of the deep-sea creatures that appear in Oceania are still mostly a mystery to science. Even so, knowledge of various aspects of animals (even iconic ones like great white sharks) is still less than ideal. Anyone who watched Shark Week this past week would know that things as simple as whether or not sharks create familial bonds or learn from each other wasn’t known until recently. The full life history of sea turtles is also still a mystery to science. When there’s so much more to learn about iconic animals like sharks and sea turtles—animals that are immensely easier to access than the creatures of the deep sea—it’s no wonder little is known about the abyssal plain regions. It’s a reminder of why ocean exploration is so vital. Further exploring the ocean will lead to more discoveries and a greater understanding of both how we impact our oceans and how the ocean impacts us.

You’ve reached the end of the blog post for this week. The next post will be my last one regarding Oceania: The Underwater City. Stay tuned (or subscribe to the blog) to be notified of the next post. I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post and if you have any comments, you can leave them here on my blog or email me directly at elizataye@gmail.com. As always, I love hearing from my readers.

Sources and Further Reading

If you want to read up on more current marine science research and projects:

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