1. Why do we say there is one world ocean? What about the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, or the Baltic and Mediterranean seas?
Traditionally, we have divided the ocean into artificial compartments called oceans and seas, using the boundaries of continents and imaginary lines such as the equator. In fact there are few dependable natural divisions, only one great mass of water. Because of the movement of continents and ocean floors (about which you’ll learn more in Chapter 3), the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and the Mediterranean and Baltic Seas, so named for our convenience, are in reality only temporary features of a single world ocean. In this book we refer to the world ocean, or simply the ocean, as a single entity, with subtly different characteristics at different locations but with very few natural partitions. This view emphasizes the interdependence of ocean and land, life and water, atmospheric and oceanic circulation, and natural and man-made environments.
2. Which is greater: the average depth of the ocean or the average elevation of the continents?
If Earth's contours were leveled to a smooth ball, the ocean would cover it to a depth of 2,686 meters (8,810 feet). The volume of the world ocean is presently 11 times the volume of land above sea level—average land elevation is only 840 meters (2,772 feet), but average ocean depth is 4½ times greater!
3. Can the scientific method be applied to speculations about the natural world that are not subject to test or observation?
Science is a systematic process of asking questions about the observable world, and testing the answers to those questions. The scientific method is the orderly process by which theories are verified or rejected. It is based on the assumption that nature "plays fair"—that the answers to our questions about nature are ultimately knowable as our powers of questioning and observing improve.
By its very nature, the scientific method depends on the application of specific tests to bits and pieces of the natural world, and explaining, by virtue of these tests, how the natural world will react in a given situation. Hypotheses and theories are devised to explain the outcomes. The tests must be repeatable—that is, other researches at other sites must be able to replicate the experiments (tests) with similar results. If replication is impossible, or if other outcomes are observed, the hypotheses and theories are discarded and replaced with new ones. Figure 1.4 shows the process.
Nothing is ever proven absolutely true by the scientific method. Hypotheses and theories may change as our knowledge and powers of observation change; thus all scientific understanding is tentative. The conclusions about the natural world that we reach by the process of science may not always be popular or immediately embraced, but if those conclusions consistently match observations, they may be considered true.
Can these methods be applied to speculations about the natural world that are not subject to test or observation? By definition, they cannot.
4. What are the major specialties within marine science?
Marine science draws on several disciplines, integrating the fields of geology, physics, biology, chemistry, and engineering as they apply to the ocean and its surroundings.
Marine geologists focus on questions such as the composition of the inner Earth, the mobility of the crust, and the characteristics of seafloor sediments. Some of their work touches on areas of intense scientific and public concern including earthquake prediction and the distribution of valuable resources. Physical oceanographers study and observe wave dynamics, currents, and ocean-atmosphere interaction. Their predictions of long-term climate trends are becoming increasingly important as pollutants change Earth's atmosphere. Marine biologists work with the nature and distribution of marine organisms, the impact of oceanic and atmospheric pollutants on the organisms, the isolation of disease-fighting drugs from marine species, and the yields of fisheries. Chemical oceanographers study the ocean's dissolved solids and gases, and the relationships of these components to the geology and biology of the ocean as a whole. Marine engineers design and build oil platforms, ships, harbors, and other structures that enable us to use the ocean wisely. Other marine specialists study weather forecasting, ways to increase the safety of navigation, methods to generate electricity, and much more. Virtually all marine scientists specialize in one area of research, but they also must be familiar with related specialties and appreciate the linkages between them.
5. Where did the Earth's heavy elements come from?
As Carl Sagan used to say, “We are made of starstuff.” Heavy elements (iron, gold, uranium) are constructed in supernovas. The dying phase of a massive star’s life begins when its core—depleted of hydrogen—collapses in on itself. This rapid compression causes the star’s internal temperature to soar. When the infalling material can no longer be compressed, the energy of the inward fall is converted to a cataclysmic expansion called a supernova). The explosive release of energy in a supernova is so sudden that the star is blown to bits and its shattered mass accelerates outward at nearly the speed of light. The explosion lasts only about 30 seconds, but in that short time, the nuclear forces holding apart individual atomic nuclei are overcome and atoms heavier than iron are formed. The gold in your rings, the mercury in a thermometer, and the uranium in nuclear power plants were all created during such a brief and stupendous flash. The atoms produced by a star through millions of years of orderly fusion, and the heavy atoms generated in a few moments of unimaginable chaos, are sprayed into space. Every chemical element heavier than hydrogen—most of the atoms that make up the planets, the ocean, and living creatures—were manufactured by the stars.
6. Where did Earth’s surface water come from?
Though most of Earth’s water was present in the solar nebula during the accretion phase, recent research suggests that a barrage of icy comets or asteroids from the outer reaches of the solar system colliding with Earth may also have contributed a portion of the accumulating mass of water, this ocean-to-be.
Earth’s surface was so hot that no water could collect there, and no sunlight could penetrate the thick clouds. (A visitor approaching from space 4.4 billion years ago would have seen a vapor-shrouded sphere blanketed by lightning-stroked clouds.) After millions of years the upper clouds cooled enough for some of the outgassed water to form droplets. Hot rains fell toward Earth, only to boil back into the clouds again. As the surface became cooler, water collected in basins and began to dissolve minerals from the rocks. Some of the water evaporated, cooled, and fell again, but the minerals remained behind. The salty world ocean was gradually accumulating.
7. Considering what must happen to form them, do you think ocean worlds are relatively abundant in the galaxy? Why or why not?
I wouldn't expect to encounter many.
For starters, let's look at stars. Most stars visible to us are members of multiple-star systems. If the Earth were in orbit around a typical multiple-star system, we would be close to at least one of the host stars at certain places in our orbit, and too far away at others. Also, not all stars—in single or multiple systems—are as stable and steady in energy output as our sun. If we were in orbit around a star that grew hotter and cooler at intervals, our situation would be radically different than it is at the moment.
Next, let's look at orbital characteristics. Our Earth is in a nearly circular orbit at just the right distance from the sun to allow liquid water to exist over most of the surface through most of the year.
Next, consider our planet's cargo of elements. We picked these up during the accretion phase. At our area of orbit there was an unusually large amount of water (or chemical materials that would led to the formation of water).
So, with a stable star, a pleasant circular orbit that is well placed, and suitable and abundant raw materials, we are a water planet. This marvelous combination is probably not found in many places in the galaxy.
But a galaxy is a very, very large place.
8. Earth has had three distinct atmospheres. Where did each one come from, and what were the major constituents and causes of each?
Earth’s first atmosphere formed during the accretion phase before our planet had a solid surface. Methane and ammonia with some water vapor and carbon dioxide—mixtures similar to those seen in the outer planets and swept from the solar nebula—were probably the most abundant gases. Radiation from the energetic young sun stripped away our planet’s first atmosphere, but gases trapped inside the planet rose to the surface during the density stratification process to form a second atmosphere. This process was aided by internal heating and by the impact of a planetary body somewhat larger than Mars. Infalling comets may have contributed some water to the Earth during this phase. This second atmosphere contained very little free oxygen. The evolution of photosynthetic organisms—single celled autotrophs and green plants—slowly modified the second atmosphere into the third (and present) oxygen-rich mixture.
9. How old is Earth? When did life arise? On what is that estimate based?
Earth's first hard surface is thought to have formed about 4.6 billion years ago. This age estimate is derived from interlocking data obtained by many researchers using different sources. One source is meteorites—chunks of rock and metal formed at about the same time as the sun and planets and out of the same cloud. Many have fallen to Earth in recent times. We know from signs of radiation within these objects how long it has been since they were formed. That information, combined with the rate of radioactive decay of unstable atoms in meteorites, moon rocks, and in the oldest rocks on Earth, allows astronomers to make reasonably accurate estimates of how long ago these objects formed.
How long ago might life have begun? The oldest fossils yet found, from northwestern Australia, are between 3.4 and 3.5 billion years old. They are remnants of fairly complex bacteria-like organisms, indicating that life must have originated even earlier, probably only a few hundred million years after a stable ocean formed. Evidence of an even more ancient beginning has been found in the form of carbonaceous residues in some of the oldest rocks on Earth, from Akilia Island near Greenland. These 3.85 billion year old specks of carbon bear a chemical fingerprint that researchers feel could only have come from a living organism. Life and Earth have grown old together; each has greatly influenced the other.
10. How did the moon form?
About 30 million years after its formation, a planetary body somewhat larger than Mars smashed into the young Earth and broke apart. The metallic core fell into Earth’s core and joined with it, while most of the rocky mantle was ejected to form a ring of debris around Earth. The debris began condensing soon after and became our moon.
11. What is biosynthesis? Where and when do researchers think it might have occurred on our planet? Could it happen again this afternoon?
Biosynthesis is the term given to the early evolution of living organisms from the simple organic building blocks present on and in the early Earth.
The early steps in biosynthesis are still speculative. Planetary scientists suggest that the sun was faint in its youth. It put out so little heat that the ocean may have been frozen to a depth of around 300 meters (1,000 feet). The ice would have formed a blanket that kept most of the ocean fluid and relatively warm. Periodic fiery impacts by asteroids, comets, and meteor swarms could have thawed the ice, but between batterings it would have reformed. In 2002, chemists Jeffrey Bada and Antonio Lazcano suggested that organic material may have formed and then been trapped beneath the ice—protected from the atmosphere, which contained chemical compounds capable of shattering the complex molecules. The first self-sustaining – living – molecules might have arisen deep below the layers of surface ice, on clays or pyrite crystals at cool mineral-rich seeps on the ocean floor. The oldest fossils yet found, from northwestern Australia, are between 3.4 and 3.5 billion years old.
A similar biosynthesis could not occur today. Living things have changed the conditions in the ocean and atmosphere, and those changes are not consistent with any new origin of life. For one thing, green plants have filled the atmosphere with oxygen, a compound that can disrupt any unprotected large molecule. For another, some of this oxygen (as ozone) now blocks much of the ultraviolet radiation from reaching the surface of the ocean. And finally, the many tiny organisms present today would gladly scavenge any large organic molecules as food.
12. Marine biologists sometimes say that all life-forms on Earth, even desert lizards and alpine plants, are marine. Can you think why?
All life on Earth shares a basic underlying biochemistry. All living organisms on this planet are water-based, carbon-built, protein-structured, nucleic acid-moderated entities. All use the same energy compound (ATP) as a source of immediate energy. They appear to have had an ancient common oceanic origin—perhaps a self-replicating molecule of a nucleic acid. Scrape away the scales and feathers, the fur and fins, and look at the chemistry. Always the same. Always marine.
13. How do we know what happened so long ago?
Science is a systematic process of asking questions about the observable world by gathering and then studying information. Science interprets raw information by constructing a general explanation with which the information is compatible.
The information presented in this chapter may change as our knowledge and powers of observation change. Interlocking information concerning the distance and behavior of stars, the age-dating of materials on Earth, the fossil record of life here, and myriad of other details combine to suggest strongly (not absolutely prove) the details I have written in this text.
14. What is density stratification? What does it have to do with the present structure of Earth?
Density is mass per unit of volume. Early in its formation, the still-fluid Earth was sorted by density—heavy elements and compounds were driven by gravity towards its center, lighter gases rose to the outside. The resulting layers (strata) are arranged with the densest at and near the Earth's center, the least dense as the atmosphere. The process of density stratification lasted perhaps 100 million years, and ended 4.6 billion years ago with the formation of Earth's first solid crust. For a preview of the result, see Figure 3.8.
1. How did the Library at Alexandria contribute to the development of marine science? What happened to most of the information accumulated there? Would you care to speculate on the historical impact the Library might have had if it had not been destroyed?
The great Library at Alexandria constituted history's greatest accumulation of ancient writings. As we have seen, the characteristics of nations, trade, natural wonders, artistic achievements, tourist sights, investment opportunities, and other items of interest to seafarers were catalogued and filed in its stacks. Manuscripts describing the Mediterranean coast were of great interest.
Traders quickly realized the competitive benefit of this information. Knowledge of where a cargo of olive oil could be sold at the greatest profit, or where the market for finished cloth was most lucrative, or where raw materials for metalworking could be obtained at low cost, was of enormous competitive value. Here perhaps was the first instance of cooperation between a university and the commercial community, a partnership that has paid dividends for science and business ever since.
After their market research was completed, it is not difficult to imagine seafarers lingering at the Library to satisfy their curiosity about non-commercial topics. And there would have been much to learn! In addition to Eratosthenes' discovery of the size of the Earth (about which you read in the chapter), Euclid systematized geometry; the astronomer Aristarchus of Samos argued that Earth is one of the planets and that all planets orbit the sun; Dionysius of Thrace defined and codified the parts of speech (noun, verb, etc.) common to all languages; Herophilus, a physiologist, established the brain was the seat of intelligence; Heron built the first steam engines and gear trains; Archimedes discovered (among many other things) the principles of buoyancy on which successful shipbuilding is based.
The last Librarian was Hypatia, the first notable woman mathematician, philosopher, and scientist. In Alexandria she was a symbol of science and knowledge, concepts the early Christians identified with pagan practices. After years of rising tensions, in 415 A.D. a mob brutally murdered her and burned the Library with all its contents. Most of the community of scholars dispersed and Alexandria ceased to be a center of learning in the ancient world.
The academic loss was incalculable, and trade suffered because ship owners no longer had a clearing house for updating the nautical charts and information upon which they had come to depend. All that remains of the Library today is a remnant of an underground storage room. We shall never know the true extent and influence of its collection of over 700,000 irreplaceable scrolls.
Historians are divided on the reasons for the fall of the Library. But we know there is no record that any of the Library's scientists ever challenged the political, economic, religious, or social assumptions of their society. Researchers did not attempt to explain or popularize the results of their research, so residents of the city had no understanding of the momentous discoveries being made at the Library at the top of the hill. With very few exceptions, the scientists did not apply their discoveries to the benefit of mankind, and many of the intellectual discoveries had little practical application. The citizens saw no practical value to such an expensive enterprise. Religious strife added elements of hostility and instability. As Carl Sagan pointed out, "When, at long last, the mob came to burn the Library down, there was nobody to stop them."1
As for speculations on historical impact had the Library survived, some specialists have suggested that much of the intellectual vacuum of the European Middle Ages might have been “sidestepped,” in a sense, if the information processing and dissemination processes centered at the Library had continued. Instead of the subsequent fragmentation and retraction, one wonders if continued academic stimulation might have reinvigorated the West. Also, had the Library lasted longer, one wonders if researchers there might have discovered the intellectual achievements of China, a civilization much advanced at the time.
2. What were the stimuli to Polynesian colonization? How were the long voyages accomplished?
The ancestors of the Polynesians spread eastward from Southeast Asia or Indonesia in the distant past. Although experts vary in their estimates, there is some consensus that by 30,000 years ago New Guinea was populated by these wanderers and by 20,000 years ago the Philippines were occupied. By around 500 B.C. the so-called cradle of Polynesia—Tonga, Samoa, the Marquesas and the Society islands—was settled and the Polynesian cultures formed.
For a long and evidently prosperous period the Polynesians spread from island to island until the easily accessible islands had been colonized. Eventually, however, overpopulation and depletion of resources became a problem. Politics, intertribal tensions, and religious strife shook their society. When tensions reached the breaking point, groups of people scattered in all directions from the Marquesas and Society Islands during a period of explosive dispersion. Between 300 and 600 A.D. Polynesians successfully colonized nearly every inhabitable island within the vast triangular area shown in Figure 2.5. Easter Island was found against prevailing winds and currents, and the remote islands of Hawaii were discovered and occupied. These were among the last places on Earth to be populated.
Large dual-hulled sailing ships, some capable of transporting up to 100 people, were designed and built for the voyages. New navigation techniques were perfected that depended on the positions of stars barely visible to the north. New ways of storing food, water, and seeds were devised. In that anxious time the Polynesians honed and perfected their seafaring knowledge. To a skilled navigator a change in the rhythmic set of waves against the hull could indicate an island out of sight over the horizon. The flight tracks of birds at dusk could suggest the direction of land. The positions of the stars told stories, as did the distant clouds over an unseen island. The smell of the water, or its temperature, or salinity, or color, conveyed information, as did the direction of the wind relative to the sun, and the type of marine life clustering near the boat. The sunrise colors, sunset colors, the hue of the moon—every nuance had meaning, every detail had been passed in ritual from father to son. The greatest Polynesian minds were navigators, and reaching Hawaii was their greatest achievement.
3. Prince Henry the Navigator only took two sea voyages, yet is regarded as an important figure in the history of oceanography. Why?
Prince Henry the Navigator, third son of the royal family of Portugal, was a European visionary who thought ocean exploration held the key to great wealth and successful trade. Prince Henry established a center at Sagres for the study of marine science and navigation. Although he personally was not well traveled, captains under his patronage explored from 1451 to 1470, compiling detailed charts wherever they went. Henry’s explorers pushed south into the unknown and opened the west coast of Africa to commerce. He sent out small, maneuverable ships designed for voyages of discovery and manned by well-trained crews. For navigation, his mariners used the compass—an instrument (invented in China in the fourth century B.C.) that points to magnetic north. Henry’s students knew the Earth was round (but because of the errors of Claudius Ptolemy they were wrong in their estimation of its size).
4. What were the main stimuli to European voyages of exploration during the Age of Discovery? Why did it end?
There were two main stimuli: (1) encouragement of trade, and (2) military one-upsmanship.
Trade between east and west had long been dependent on arduous and insecure desert caravan routes through the central Asian and Arabian deserts. This commerce was cut off in 1453 when the Turks captured Constantinople. An alternate ocean route was desperately needed. As we have seen, Prince Henry of Portugal thought ocean exploration held the key to great wealth and successful trade. Henry's explorers pushed south into the unknown and opened the West coast of Africa to commerce. He sent out small, maneuverable ships designed for voyages of discovery and manned by well-trained crews.
Christopher Columbus was familiar with Prince Henry's work, and "discovered" the New World quite by accident while on a mission to encourage trade. His intention was to pioneer a sea route to the rich and fabled lands of the east made famous more than 200 years earlier in the overland travels of Marco Polo. As "Admiral of the Ocean Sea," Columbus was to have a financial interest in the trade routes he blazed. As we saw, Columbus never appreciated the fact that he had found a new continent. He went to his grave confident that he had found islands just off the coast of Asia.
Charts that included the properly-identified New World inspired Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese navigator in the service of Spain, to believe that he could open a westerly trade route to the Orient. In the Philippines, Magellan was killed and his crew decided to continue sailing west around the world. Only 18 of the original 250 men survived, returning to Spain three years after they set out. But they had proved it was possible to circumnavigate the globe.
The seeds of colonial expansion had been planted. Later, the empires of Spain, Holland, Britain, and France pushed into the distant oceanic reaches in search of lands to claim. Military strength might depend on good charts, knowledge of safe harbors in which to take on provisions, and friendly relations with the locals. Exploration was undertaken to insure these things.
But that gets ahead of the story. The Magellan expedition's return to Spain in 1522—the end of the first circumnavigation—technically marks the end of the first age of European discovery.
5. Did Columbus discover North America? Who did? Were the Chinese involved?
Columbus never saw North America. North America was “discovered” by people following migrating game across the Bering Straits land bridge about 20,000 years ago, during the last ice age.
As for the Chinese, Gavin Menzies’ 2002 popular book “1421: The Year China Discovered America,” has caused an intensive re-examination of the voyages of Zheng He and his subordinates that you read about in this chapter. Menzies makes a compelling (though far from bulletproof) case that part of the Ming fleet continued westward around the tip of Africa and into the Atlantic, eventually sighting both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of North America as well as the Antarctic continent. Menzies bases his argument on cartographic evidence, artifacts, and inferences in the logs of European explorers that they were following paths blazed by someone who had gone before. The equipment was up to the task (see Figure 2.9), but the jury is out on whether these discoveries were made as Menzies claims.
6. What were the contributions of Captain James Cook? Does he deserve to be remembered more as an explorer or as a marine scientist?
Captain James Cook's contributions to marine science are justifiably famous. Cook was a critical link between the vague scientific speculations of the first half of the eighteenth century and the industrial revolution to come. He pioneered the use of new navigational techniques, measured and charted countless coasts, produced maps of such accuracy that some of their information is still in use, and revolutionized the seaman's diet to eliminate scurvy. His ship-handling in difficult circumstances was legendary, and his ability to lead his crew with humanity and justice remains an inspiration to naval officers to this day.
While Captain Cook received no formal scientific training, he did learn methods of scientific observation and analysis from Joseph Banks and other researchers embarked on HMS Endeavour. Because his observations are clear and well recorded, and because his speculations on natural phenomena are invariably based on scientific analysis (rather than being glossed over or ascribed to supernatural forces), some consider him the first marine scientist.2 But, to be rigorously fair, perhaps his explorational and scientific skills should be given equal weighting.
7. What was the first purely scientific oceanographic expedition, and what were some of its accomplishments?
The expeditions of Cook, Wilkes, the Rosses, de Bougainville, Wallis, and virtually all other runners-up to HMS Challenger were multi-purpose undertakings: military scouting, flag-waving, provision hunting, and trade analysis were coupled with exploration and scientific research.
The first sailing expedition devoted completely to marine science was conceived by Charles Wyville Thomson, a professor of natural history at Scotland's University of Edinburgh, and his Canadian-born student of natural history, John Murray. They convinced the Royal Society and the British Government to provide a Royal Navy ship and trained crew for a "prolonged and arduous voyage of exploration across the oceans of the world." Thomson and Murray even coined a word for their enterprise: Oceanography.
HMS Challenger, the 2,306 ton steam corvette chosen for the expedition, set sail on 7 December 1872 on a four-year voyage that took them around the world and covered 127,600 kilometers (79,300 nautical miles). Although the Captain was a Royal Naval officer, the six-man scientific staff directed the course of the voyage.
The scientists also took salinity, temperature, and water density measurements during these soundings. Each reading contributed to a growing picture of the physical structure of the deep ocean. They completed at least 151 open water trawls, and stored 77 samples of seawater for detailed analysis ashore. The expedition collected new information on ocean currents, meteorology, and the distribution of sediments; the locations and profiles of coral reefs were charted. Thousands of pounds of specimens were brought to British museums for study. Manganese nodules, brown lumps of mineral-rich sediments, were discovered on the seabed, sparking interest in deep sea mining.
This first pure oceanographic investigation was an unqualified success. The discovery of life in the depths of the oceans stimulated the new science of marine biology. The scope, accuracy, thoroughness, and attractive presentation of the researchers' written reports made this expedition a high point in scientific publication. The Challenger Report, the record of the expedition, was published between 1880 and 1895 by Sir John Murray in a well-written and magnificently illustrated 50-volume set; it is still used today. The Challenger expedition remains history's longest continuous scientific oceanographic expedition.
8. Who was probably the first person to undertake the systematic study of the ocean as a full-time occupation? Are his contributions considered important today?
Matthew Maury is a likely candidate. A Virginian and officer (at different times) in both the United States and Confederate States Navy, Maury was the first person to sense the worldwide pattern of surface winds and currents. Based on an analysis undertaken while working full-time for the Bureau of Charts and Instruments, he produced a set of directions for sailing great distances more efficiently. Maury's sailing directions quickly attracted worldwide notice: He had shortened the passage for vessels traveling from the American east coast to Rio de Janeiro by 10 days, and to Australia by 20. His work became famous in 1849 during the California gold rush—his directions made it possible to save 30 days around Cape Horn to California. Applicable U.S. charts still carry the inscription, "Founded on the researches of M.F.M. while serving as a lieutenant in the U. S. Navy." His crowning achievement, The Physical Geography of the Seas, a book explaining his discoveries, was published in 1855.
Maury, considered by many to be the father of physical oceanography, was perhaps the first man to undertake the systematic study of the ocean as a full-time occupation.
9. What famous American is also famous for publishing the first image of an ocean current? What was his motivation for studying currents?
While serving as Postmaster General of the northern colonies, Benjamin Franklin noticed the peculiar fact that the fastest ships were not always the fastest ships—that is, hull speed did not always correlate with out-and-return time on the run to England. Naturally he wanted the most efficient transport of mail and freight, and the differences in ship speeds concerned him. Franklin's cousin, a Nantucket merchant named Tim Folger, noted Franklin's puzzlement and provided him with a rough chart of the "Gulph Stream" that he (Folger) had worked out. By staying within the stream on the outbound leg and adding its speed to their own, and by avoiding it on their return, captains could traverse the Atlantic much more quickly. It was Franklin who published, in 1769, the first chart of any current.
10. Sketch briefly the major developments in marine science since 1900. Do individuals, separate voyages, or institutions figure most prominently in this history?
Individuals and voyages are most prominent in the first half of this century. Captain Robert Falcon Scott's British Antarctic expedition in HMS Discovery (1901-1904) set the stage for the golden age of Antarctic exploration. Roald Amundsen's brilliant assault on the South Pole (1911) demonstrated that superb planning and preparation paid great dividends when operating in remote and hazardous locales. The German Meteor expedition, the first "high tech" oceanographic expedition, showed how electronic devices and sophisticated sampling techniques could be adapted to the marine environment. And certainly the individual contributions of people like Jacques Cousteau and Emile Gagnan (inventors in 1943 of the "aqualung," the first scuba device) and Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard (pilots of Trieste to the ocean's deepest point in 1960) are important.
But the undeniable success story of late twentieth century oceanography is the successful rise of the great research institutions with broad state and national funding. Without the cooperation of research universities and the federal government (through agencies like the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and others), the great strides that were made in the fields of plate tectonics, atmosphere-ocean interaction, biological productivity, and ecological awareness would have been much slower in coming. Along with the Sea Grant Universities (and their equivalents in other countries), establishments like the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, with their powerful array of researchers and research tools, will define the future of oceanography.
11. What is an echo sounder?
In the 1925 German Meteor expedition, which crisscrossed the south Atlantic for two years, introduced modern optical and electronic equipment to oceanographic investigation. Its most important innovation was to use an echo sounder, a device which bounces sound waves off the ocean bottom, to study the depth and contour of the seafloor. The echo sounder revealed to Meteor scientists a varied and often extremely rugged bottom profile rather than the flat floor they had anticipated.
12. In your opinion, where does the future of marine science lie?
Later in your textbook you’ll find a detailed image of the Gulf Stream taken from space, and a photo of a ship taking a huge wave. Now ask yourself: "Where would I rather be to obtain and analyze information? At Mission Control looking at the computer readouts, or on that pitching, heaving ship?"
The universities and institutions mentioned above are faced with rising expenses and falling budgets; each must do more with less. Economical remote sensing devices, where appropriate, will continue to supplant on-site gathering of data. Satellite imagery and autonomous robots are more expensive to make and deploy, but because of multi-use designs their return per dollar may be much higher in the long run. Some seasick scientists may be replaced by stationary technicians reading computer-generated graphs, but I am still confident that on-site researchers will always be needed. Whatever happens, I am reasonably certain that the greatest progress in the immediate future will be made by consortia of universities and research institutions funded by state and federal agencies.
Through decisions on the use of tax revenue, the voters will directly or indirectly determine the future of marine science. The future will be what we make it.