How Close Are We to Completely Mapping the Ocean?

How Close Are We to Completely Mapping the Ocean?

We’ve explored the jungles, the deserts,
the arctic, even the moon. But one place still remains a mostly uncharted
mystery; our oceans. Oceans cover about 70% of Earth’s surface,
but we know more about the geography of Mars than we do about what lies on the bottom of
the sea. But all that might change. Around the world people are looking to finally
reveal the secrets of our deep oceans for both scientific and economic gains. So, how close are we to completely mapping
the ocean? For thousands of years people have taken to
the seas with the goal of finding out just how deep our oceans are. This mainly consisted of tying a weight to
a long rope and throwing it over the side of a boat. This is actually how we discovered the deepest
part of the ocean, Mariana Trench. Since then we’ve obviously advanced with
our technology, and have actually already used satellites to map the entire ocean. Kind of. The way that they do satellite mapping of
the ocean, they use altimetry. As the satellite is passing over an orbit,
if there’s a higher concentration of rock, or sea mounts, or anything that’s beneath
the ocean surface, the increased gravity actually causes some of the water to collect around
the top of it and they can measure the different heights of the ocean
surface. Using certain algorithms and processing that
data, they can actually get a decent representation of what it’s like down there. But decent isn’t good enough. Satellite mapping only gives us about a 5km
resolution of the ocean floor, meaning we can see features and objects larger than 5km
across. To put that in context, most of Mars has been
mapped to 6m and almost all of Venus and 100% of the moon has been mapped to 100m. Less than 10% of our oceans, and maybe closer
to 5%, have been mapped to this detail. that really is disappointing for a marine
biologist, really disappointing for anyone who’s thinking about doing business on the
oceans, managing the oceans, thinking about how to get what we need from the future of
the oceans…We’re sort of fumbling around in the dark… Having a detailed map would greatly change
how we use the ocean. It would help with safety, like charting potential
hazards that could take down a ship. It could lead to more accurate climate models,
better understand tsunami dangers and improved weather predictions. It would help with laying down ocean cables,
fiber optics and pipes. However, it could also help advance the exploitation
of the ocean’s natural resources, like those precious metals used to create your cell phone. But having a detailed map will help us better
understand how to protect the ocean when the inevitable rush to further exploit it begins. The International Seabed Authority, which
is in charge of overseeing seabed mining on the high seas, part of its charge is to set
up some areas of special biological interest that will not be mined and putting them in
the right places, in places that matter for biodiversity and matter for ocean function,
requires knowing what’s down there…so you don’t mine, for example, a rainforest and
put your protected area in a desert, right? So ocean mapping may be this double edged
sword. On one side, people are trying to map the
ocean to help understand and protect it, making geological and biological discoveries along
the way. Others are trying understand and exploit it,
potentially harming the ocean floor as they go. But these two factions might work together
to achieve a goal that could see both sides benefiting. How do you manage what you don’t understand We can map out things like manganese nodules, that have the potential for copper and nickel and cobalt. We depend on ocean mapping for before any kind of oil explorations done they must map the seafloor both the surface and the subsurface of the seafloor, and in this case, here we’re going to get a full understanding through mapping what’s there and then can set up the appropriate management approaches So if everyone wants this map, why hasn’t
it been done yet? Well, it’ll cost a lot of money. and take a lot of time. Maybe as much as 200 ship years. So with the current day technology, it would
take about 200 years for one ship to map the whole ocean or 200 ships one year. The question is the cost. We’ve estimated that to map the entire ocean
at a reasonable level of resolution would cost on the order of three billion dollars
and you’d say, “Wow, gee, who would ever spend three billion dollars to map a planet?” And I point to the fact that we’ve sent missions
to the moon which cost on the order of 600 million dollars or so and mapped the moon
much better than we’ve mapped our planet. We’ve sent missions to Mars, many missions
to Mars. Each one of those missions cost between two
and three billion dollars. And so we have the will to do that. One way to cut down on cost would be to do
it faster, and the good news is that’s the plan. What started as throwing a weight over the
side of the boat has turned into utilizing acoustic waves. By sending hundreds of laser-like beams of
sound into the ocean and measuring how long it takes to bounce back, scientists can more
accurately image the ocean depths. We’re also trying to develop techniques to
speed that up, to do it more quickly. And to do it maybe with autonomous vessels,
vessels that will be more efficient that you don’t have to have a crew on and send autonomous
vessels out for months at a time and let them start collecting the data… To put out drones that would go out and do
it autonomously, that’s a new forefront that’s developing at the moment, but that’s still
in its infancy. The amount of drones that would need to go
out to perform this, that’s something that they’re still building on. So yes, one day in the near future our oceans
may be teeming with underwater drones or crew-less ships, crisscrossing the planet, collecting
and sending data that will be transformed into a 3D map of our oceans. Which is another hurdle we still need to figure
out, what to do with all this data? There’s also a major challenge of trying to
mass collect and synthesize this data… It’s one thing to have the data stored on
500,000 hard drives and 500,000 vessels, but you need to get put all together in the same
place. And one boldly named group, Seabed 2030, is
looking to lead that fight. The collaborative project between the Nippon
Foundation and GEBCO, is aiming to gather all the bathymetric data and produce the world’s
first highly detailed ocean map, and do it by 2030. It’s amazing how every time we go out to map
in unknown waters, we find something we didn’t know about. It’s that kind of discovery and exploration
that really drives at least me in terms of ocean mapping. And it’s that passion, along with their
hard work, that has given those in the community the ability work with and root for Seabed
2030 and their nearing deadline. They could certainly use more resources if
they’re gonna get close to hitting that goal, but I’m gonna go ahead and commit the least
aspiration, I’m gonna hope that they’re right that we’ll have the oceans mapped by 2030. I think, the global initiative to have it
done by 2030 is going to be quite an undertaking. It’s going to depend on developing technology
and a concerted effort from different players, but I’m optimistic and I think it will happen
at some point. We need a detailed map of the ocean to better
understand the ocean, and to do this we need people, ships, advanced technology, global
cooperation and of course, money. So, how close are we to mapping the entire
ocean? Well, all eyes are on Seabed 2030 and their
goal to have a complete, public map by well, 2030. We’re gonna give it our darndest to do. It’s a very, very ambitious goal. I’m not sure we will get a hundred percent
there but we’re certainly gonna make some strides toward that. So that’s our goal is to see it all mapped
by 2030. Thanks so much for watching another episode
of How Close Are We. If you have any ideas for future episodes,
let us know in the comments. And if you want to watch more Seeker ocean
content, click over here to watch the Swim, an ongoing series about one man’s journey
to swim across the Pacific Ocean.

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100 thoughts on “How Close Are We to Completely Mapping the Ocean?

  1. 3 billion is a lot of money.

    What is the upside in making a map vs investing the money into growing economy, investing in corporations, ect. Clear upside there.

  2. After you guys finish, when are you planning to do it again? If you only map it one time, then you cannot compare and understand the changes and movements. How long its gonna take for the second time?

  3. Hey There…
    I'm a student of Oceanography from BSMR Maritime University, Bangladesh.
    Highly Interested in mapping the sea floor. Seeking for the opportunity to work with it.
    In our bay – the Bay of Bengal, has a unique & almost unexplored feature ''Swatch Of No Ground''- a submarine canyon.
    Thank you.😀

  4. They haven’t found the real life comparison to Aquaman and Atlantis so they’re no where near completely mapping the entire oceans floor.

  5. All you need is for each country to contribute 3.8 million per year, and you will have your funds. Of course there would be adjustments due to economic scale, but its doable.

  6. Just remind USA how much oil is hidden in the ocean, they’ll dig up everything and map the whole thing for you for free. They spend $600B+ a year on military, $3 billion won’t put a dent in their budget.

  7. You're telling me you cant build a fleet of cheap underwater drones and get this done? Certainly 3 billion is a crackhead estimate.

  8. The problem with acoustics is the effect they have on cetaceans, especially the deep diving species such as the Curvier's beaked whale. They are mainly found in deep canyons where the sound bounces off the walls causing them to make a bolt for the surface which ends up killing them as they get DCS

  9. Man… so much shit will have happened by or around 2030… the ocean will be mapped, we'll have consumer-ready general purpose AR glasses, level 5 autonomous vehicles will be available, fossil fuels will be a minority share of global energy production, computers with equivalent processing power to a human brain will be available at around $1000 cost… the world is going to be very different.

  10. tbh its either our scientists today are lazy, or just plain stupid if they can't discover 100% of our OWN planet. EDITED: I mean like we have been hearf for 1/5th of a million years

  11. Is it possible that this is all just a cover for them to search for mermaids, the kraken and the dark lord Cthulhu?

  12. Seismic (sonic) pinging is a lethal hazard to marine life, especially the cetaceans.

  13. As far as someone who is great at collecting Meta data, the United States Government, the N.S.A. It has been collecting many Petabytes of data from citizens of the U.S. and abroad. So the sub system creators and maintainers of their systems would be a perfect place to start. 3 Billion is nothing compared to the money spend on "Black Projects" and "Ultra Black Projects" by the U.S. Government. Not to mention all of the D.A.R.P.A. money that is given to colleges across the U.S.. All of the robotic research going on, really isn't to help search and rescue people in the future, it's to have weaponized robots that can search and arrest or eliminate targets in the future. Hopefully to "ONLY" get bad people. But when has any Government, killed any innocent people within the span of human history? Never mind, we know the answer, RUN………………………………….

  14. 3 billion dollars? Are you kidding? Thats nothing to a rich and curious person or business to have an edge more information then the next person

  15. the reason why we have mapped the moon and mars and all the land on earth but not the oceans is simple. Because the ocean floor is fucking boring! lol

  16. @seeker make an episode on life/perception after biologica death, human machine interface, material sciences, permafrost and methane

  17. Why not just make it a requirement that every vessel traveling international waters be outfitted with minimal amount of equipment necessary to complete the scans and securely upload the data to 2030’s servers? Since every vessel has to dock eventually, it wouldn’t take long for the majority of the sea floor to be mapped. This way would cut out the cost of creating autonomous ships to do it, which could translate into more funds for the needed equipment, and therefore more equipped vessels that already exist. #GEBCO #NipponFoundation #Seabed2030

  18. This would be a great video except for their anti business agenda. In their minds once the oceans are mapped there won't be any place that won't be "protected".

  19. I doubt the environmentalist are the ones spending 3 billion dollars to map the ocean. Shooting acoustic laser waves at everything will kill lives.

  20. display the data as a true spherical interactive online and let AI search for meaningful search patterns.

  21. I know a great solution for this problem. Elon Musk just needs to start a company… called OCEANX (bring on SeaQuest DSV)

  22. Could we use hydrogen spectroscopy and hydrogen density using satellite and unmened sea drones submersible to see details of any depth even earth core. It is worthwhile in effort to save earth and peace and jobs.

  23. Do the techniques used to map the sea floor affect the wildlife/environment? Like if they are using aquostic waves does it affect dolphins/whales? If they are using radar/radioactive waves does it heat up the earth?

  24. Why not have some basic certification process for existing ships (of all countries) to apply to have an automated version of sonar recording/mapping installed and uploading data periodically? That could also help us better monitor changes as well as topography.

  25. 20/30 is a great goal for having the mapping done for the entire ocean but maybe by cutting it in in half by maybe taking two years and you know half as many ships you can cut cost-efficiency down and and maybe even save some money so it's so we can actually push that push it up further you know we could see it sooner you guys are really smart we can work it out I'm sure keep up the good work is awesome I love what you guys are doing keep me informed please thank you

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