Many are unsure of what is on the ocean floor. The ocean floor, also called the seabed or sea floor, is the bottom of the ocean. The ocean floor comprises seventy-one percent of the Earth’s surface.
The Geography of the Ocean
To understand what is on the ocean floor, we must first understand the geography of the rest of the ocean. The geography of the ocean is divided into several levels. Each of these levels has its own typical features based on depth, features like topography, marine life, salinity, and soil composition. The ocean’s levels begin with a continental shelf, a gently sloping area of just around 650 feet deep that surrounds continents. The continental shelf then transitions into a continental slope, a steep descent into the ocean. The continental slope then transitions into the abyssal plain, which begins the seabed.
What Is on the Ocean Floor: The Geography of the Seabed
The breadth of what is on the ocean floor includes plains, enormous undersea mountain ranges called ocean ridges, isolated mountains called seamounts, and more. The deepest parts of the ocean floor are seabed trenches, which are called hadalpelagic trenches. The deepest trench is the Mariana Trench, which measures over 36,000 feet deep—that’s deeper than Mount Everest is tall. The average depth of the ocean, however, is 12,000 feet—that’s about two miles deep.
Life on the Ocean Floor
The soil in seabeds is full of sediment. This sediment collects from rivers, sea currents, magma, and microoganisms’ activity. In recent years we have discovered a variety of marine life in the deep sea, especially around hydrothermal vents.
How We’ve Discovered What Is on the Ocean Floor
For millennia, man has been unable to explore the ocean floor, as the seabed was too deep and pressurized to reach. Because of this, man has long seen the ocean floor as a symbol for mystery and wonder. Fortunately, in recent years we have been able to reach the ocean floor. Scuba divers can now use air tanks to reach shallower parts of the ocean floor. The deepest parts of the ocean floor can be reached with submersibles. Most famously, in 1986, the DSV Alvin explored the seabed wreckage of the Titanic.
How We Monitor What Is on the Ocean Floor
The seabed is always changing. Seafloor spreading continually adds new material to the ocean floor. This is why oceanographers have always wanted to monitor what is on the ocean floor. Sailors used to measure the ocean’s depth by using a lead line, a long piece of rope marked off in fathoms (six-foot intervals) with a weight at one end. The sailors would drop the weighted end into the water, and then the sailors would measure how far the line had entered the ocean when the weight reached the sea floor. In recent years, we have used satellites to map seabed and determine what is on the ocean floor.