We know very little about the deep ocean floor and the life it holds due to the depth and the difficulties this creates for scientists. In fact, it has been said that we know more about the surface of the moon than about the deeper ocean trenches. Here are 15 crazy facts about the ocean floor.
The average depth of the ocean is around 14000 feet, which is equal to the statue of liberty stacked one top of itself forty-seven times¹.
If Mount Everest was placed in the deepest part of the ocean, its peak would be covered by over 7000 feet of seawater. Called the Challenger Deep, it is approximately 36,200 feet deep and is located in the southern part of the Mariana trench².
We have better maps of Mars than we do of the ocean floor. Although the ocean covers over 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, we have only explored a miserly 5 percent of it³.
It snows underwater. In the deepest ocean, light doesn’t reach the seafloor, and therefore photosynthesis is impossible. All nutrients and energy come from primary producers in the upper water column. When these primary producers and other organisms die, they float down to the ocean floor in what is known as marine snow⁴.
Whale falls are a real thing, and occur when a whale dies and sinks down into the ocean depths. They then become a concentrated food source for a huge range of organisms, which form a biological hotspot on the ocean floor for over a year after the fall⁵.
The largest mountain range on earth exists beneath the ocean. Aptly names the Mid-Ocean Ridge, it stretches 40,389 miles and is located on the boundaries of multiple tectonic plates⁶.
If we could mine all of the gold from the ocean floor, we would have enough to give every person on earth nine pounds! Unfortunately, there are no cost-effective ways to extract it yet⁷.
Many animals which live on the ocean floor are red. Red light is completely absorbed within the first 300 feet of water, meaning that anything the colour red will appear black or grey. This is an excellent form of camouflage⁸.
Around certain hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor there exists ecosystems which are completely independent of the sun. They fix energy from toxic compounds, such as hydrogen sulphide, rather than from sulight⁹.
Hawaii was formed by huge underwater volcanoes located on the ocean floor. Volcanoes such as this have created many oceanic islands¹⁰.
Underwater lakes exist in certain places, such as the Gulf of Mexico. These are formed when seawater seeps through thick layers of salt, becoming extremely concentrated and dense. Since this water is denser than normal seawater, it will settle in low points on the ocean floor, with a distinctly visible ‘shore’, ‘surface’, and ‘waves’¹¹.
Huge oceanic canyons rivalling the Grand Canyon are a feature of continental shelves all over the world. Formed by river erosion during a period of lower sea level, these canyons are often home to a huge variety of marine life¹².
Underwater kelp forests are an amazing feature of certain oceans. Attaching themselves to the ocean floor with a root-like ‘holdfast’, they float up in the water column thanks to gas bubbles in their leaves¹³.
One of the biggest problems facing underwater explorers is the pressure, which increases by one atmosphere for every 33 feet you go below the surface. That means that in the Challenger Deep, the pressure is approximately 1100 times surface pressure¹⁴.
The largest ocean basin on earth, the Pacific Ocean Basin, is large enough to hold every continent on earth¹⁵.