With most of the ocean seabed unmapped, Earth’s last frontier of terrestrial discovery has become a focus of activity for explorers, scientists, cartographers and environmentalists.
Ask any explorer what there is left to explore and, apart from the vast cosmos about which we know virtually nothing, the most frequent answer will be “the ocean depths”. This is because, while the planet’s dry surface has been mapped down to the last metre, we know very little about the topography of the bottom of our oceans. Water covers 70 per cent of the globe and yet, by some estimates, only 10 per cent of the ocean floor has been explored to a significant degree. The race is now on to map the entire seabed by the end of the next decade.
“Knowledge of the oceans is more than a matter of curiosity. Our very survival might hinge on it,” said US President John F Kennedy more than half a century ago. And yet today ocean exploration is, in funding terms at least, something of an overlooked enterprise when compared with space.
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