Today, a significant portion of the Earth’s surface, approximately 71%, is water. Surprisingly, despite this vast expanse, more than 80% of the world’s oceans remain uncharted. This lack of comprehensive mapping poses a challenge for scientists seeking to grasp a complete understanding of ocean topography, biodiversity, and sustainability.
Fortuitously, a technology startup named Saildrone, hailing from California, has embarked on a transformative endeavor. Collaborating with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), Saildrone successfully accomplished an unprecedented mission. Their crewless expedition involved mapping more than 17,000 square miles of the previously uncharted ocean floor in the vicinity of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands and off the coast of California. This significant feat marks a remarkable stride in uncovering the mysteries of these underwater realms.
Spearheading the mission was the Saildrone Surveyor, hailed as “the largest automated ocean mapping vehicle in the world” by the company. This remarkable vessel embarked on an extraordinary journey, dedicating 52 days to meticulously map the expanse surrounding the Aleutian Islands. Following this initial triumph, the Saildrone Surveyor ventured forth on its second expedition, this time focused on charting the waters of the captivating California coast.
During these groundbreaking missions, extensive mapping efforts were concentrated on “high-priority” areas within significant regions, resulting in remarkable discoveries. The meticulous high-resolution mapping revealed unexpected findings, including the identification of a previously undiscovered seamount towering at an impressive height of approximately 3,200 feet.
The comprehensive exploration shed new light on the oceanic landscape and its hidden wonders.
Government officials have expressed great enthusiasm regarding the remarkable achievements of the mission. Dr. Aurora Elmore, the NOAA Ocean Exploration’s Cooperative Institute Manager, highlighted the vital importance of the ocean to every American’s life. From the provision of essential protein derived from fish to nourish animals and humans, to the underwater cables that enable the functioning of the internet, the ocean plays a pivotal role. Dr. Elmore emphasized the significance of comprehending the ocean’s vast resources to maximize their utilization for the benefit of the United States and its citizens.
According to the company’s website, Saildrone is driven by a vision of a thriving ocean and a secure, sustainable planet. Their extensive range of measurements and observations, both above and below the ocean surface, offers valuable intelligence and insights into various areas. These include maritime security, mapping, weather forecasting, carbon cycling, global fishing, and climate change, all of which significantly impact humanity. Saildrone’s mission aims to contribute to a better understanding of these crucial subjects, ultimately leading to a positive influence on our world.
Saildrone is committed to continuously advancing its mission of enhancing ocean understanding and has no intentions of becoming complacent. We can only hope to find incredible things that rest just on the outskirts of the land we know all too well.
To further enhance our understanding of the uncharted ocean depths, scientists have turned to cutting-edge technology such as unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). These innovative devices are equipped with advanced sonar systems, cameras, and sensors that can capture detailed data about the underwater environment.
One such example is the REMUS SharkCam, developed by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). This underwater robot is designed to study and document marine life, particularly sharks, in their natural habitats. Equipped with high-definition cameras and sophisticated tracking systems, the REMUS SharkCam has provided unprecedented insights into the behavior and ecology of these fascinating creatures.
Additionally, the use of satellite technology has revolutionized our ability to map and monitor the world’s oceans. Satellite altimeters, which measure the height of the ocean surface with remarkable precision, have enabled scientists to create detailed maps of global ocean topography. This data is crucial for understanding ocean circulation patterns, identifying underwater mountains and ridges, and even detecting previously unknown features such as underwater volcanoes.
Furthermore, advancements in remote sensing technology have allowed scientists to study the health and biodiversity of marine ecosystems from a bird’s-eye view. Satellite imagery can detect changes in sea surface temperature, chlorophyll concentration, and ocean color, providing valuable information about the distribution of phytoplankton, the foundation of marine food webs.
In recent years, there has also been a growing interest in exploring the deep sea, which represents the largest and least explored ecosystem on Earth. Robotic submersibles, such as the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Deep Discoverer, have been deployed to great depths, capturing stunning footage of never-before-seen creatures and habitats. These deep-sea expeditions are expanding our knowledge of the biodiversity and ecological processes that occur in these extreme environments.
As technology continues to advance, scientists and explorers are hopeful that we will uncover even more secrets hidden beneath the surface of the world’s oceans. By combining cutting-edge tools and collaborative efforts, we can continue to push the boundaries of our knowledge and gain a deeper understanding of our planet’s most mysterious and awe-inspiring realms.