From the dawn of time, the ocean has played a pivotal role in shaping the earth’s ecosystems, weather patterns, and even the course of human history. It has been a constant provider of resources, a gateway for exploration and trade, and an endless source of inspiration for adventurers, artists, and dreamers alike.
Despite this, most of the ocean’s depths remain uncharted, untouched, and unseen by humans. According to the Nation Ocean Service, less than 10% has been mapped, and limiting it to just the coast of the U.S. only raises that to 35%. That leaves a lot to the imagination, but even the small amount humans have seen is enough to leave us in awe. Here are ten incredible facts about the ocean.
Related: Top 10 Creepiest Places On Earth (That You Probably Don’t Know)
10 The Atlantic Ocean Is Growing
The ocean floor has a huge crack where the earth’s crust is violently created constantly. Magma rises, then cools, pushing aside older crust and leaving younger crust in its wake. It’s called the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which hosts a continental plate divorce court with the Eurasian and North American Plates splitting in the Northern Hemisphere.
And below the equator is no better. The African and South American Plates are equally energetic to separate, causing the ridge to widen up to 2 inches (5 cm) a year. Now even though the width is impressive, we all know its length that matters. And although the Mid-Atlantic Ridge boasts nearly 10,000 ridge-filled miles (16,093 km), it’s only part of the global mid-ocean ridge system.
This system measures 40,390 miles (65,001 km), making it the planet’s largest geological feature and almost twice as long as the earth’s equator.
Beyond just volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, scientists have discovered expansive hydrothermal fields in the region with periodic vent fluid releases, creating underwater hot springs.
Luckily, you don’t have to be in a submarine to experience portions of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. This mountain range is sometimes tall enough to create volcanic islands, including Ascension Island, St. Helena, and Iceland.
9 Plummet into the Challenger Deep
At the very bottom of the Mariana Trench is a place called Challenger Deep. The abyss reaches over 35,760 feet (10,900 meters), making it the deepest known point on Earth. It’s like the Grand Canyon and Mt. Everest combined and then on steroids.
Only a handful of people have ever actually been there. In fact, until 2019, only three people had taken the journey to the Challenger Deep’s floor.
The first manned expedition was in 1960 when Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard took the risk and became the first to conquer the Challenger Deep for about 30 minutes. Fifty-two years later, James Cameron seized the opportunity to dive solo into this chasm in a submarine he helped design. He spent a few hours searching the bottom, only to return with a small silt sample.
Since 2019, more frequent expeditions have been launched, including astronaut Kathryn D. Sullivan and mountaineer Vanessa O’Brien, who became the first woman to reach this extreme frontier. The record for the most dives there goes is held by Victor Vescovo, with an astonishing total of fifteen descents.
One surprising thing we’ve learned from exploring Challenger Deep isn’t the silent wasteland Cameron described as being featureless and devoid of life except for small amphipods. Instead, scientists have found constant noise from earthquakes and whales to ship propellers. And the depths are home to some truly bizarre animals like the dragonfish.
8 You Should Fear Its Watery Depths More Than Infinite Space
There’s a reason why almost 10% of people have thalassophobia, the fear of the ocean, as the ocean can hide its dangers right below your feet. But is it really worse than space? According to a survey of experts… Yes, it’s much scarier!
Summer Ash, a Columbia University Astrophysicist, said, “The ocean is scarier by far!!! In space, only physics wants to kill you, but in the ocean, it’s physics PLUS biology!”
The pressure at the deepest part of the ocean is over 16,000 PSI, more than 1,000 times the pressure we feel at sea level. To help you imagine, take the biggest male elephant you can imagine and put all its weight on your thumb.
Almost everything else is trying to kill you, even if you take the pressure out of the equation. You can’t drink the water, which will cause hypothermia, and many animals can send you to a watery grave. To sum up, space is deadly and will kill you quickly; the ocean, on the other hand, can either kill you quickly or slowly while providing you with a false sense of hope.
7 Secret Rivers: The Ultimate Aquatic Inception
Imagine how big of a WTF moment you’d have scuba diving and stumbling upon a real river flowing on the seafloor. That’s what happened to Anatoley and his friends while they were diving in Mexico. They named it “Cenote Angelita.” It’s near Tulum, Mexico, and believe it or not, it’s complete with trees and leaves drifting along the ocean floor.
And this doesn’t seem to be a fluke occurrence. Teams around the globe have found underwater rivers in the Black Sea and off the coasts of Australia and Portugal.
A team led by Dr. Dan Parson from the University of Leeds discovered the river at the bottom of the Black Sea. Meanwhile, robots found the river near Australia. These amazing discoveries have scientists around the world buzzing with excitement as they look to see just how to harness the power these rivers hold.
6 The Oceans Enigmatic Abyss: The “Twilight Zone”
There’s an ethereal realm below the surface between 650 and 3,500 feet (198 and 1,067 m). It’s a dark and cold landscape, untouched by sunlight. You are now descending into the twilight zone, where light wanes and mysteries abound.
Embark on this journey into the unknown, where the ocean twilight zone beckons us with its bioluminescent charm and explore the vast mysteries that lie beneath
The Ocean Twilight Zone Project is a group of scientists trying to understand this oceanic zone’s secrets. The twilight zone showcases nature’s ingenuity. Since there is so little light, many creatures create their own light to attract food, like in Finding Nemo. While others use bioluminescence for defense, and other varieties have adapted counterillumination to avoid being seen.
According to some studies, scientists think the twilight zone may have more fish biomass than the rest of the ocean combined. The twilight zone is a critical part of the global climate process. Understanding it sheds light on the water, nutrients, and carbon cycles.
5 It’s the World’s Largest Thermostat
While we may not often think of the ocean as a climate superhero, it plays a remarkable role in maintaining Earth’s temperature. Picture the sea as an enormous, heat-hoarding solar panel, absorbing and dissipating the sun’s energy, especially in tropical waters along the equator. Meanwhile, the land and atmosphere help retain warmth, preventing it from escaping into space once the sun sets.
But the ocean doesn’t simply store heat like a giant, watery furnace. It’s a master at sharing that warmth worldwide. Fun fact: almost all rainfall begins its journey as oceanic vapor! It’s no wonder the tropics get so much rain since this is where the ocean’s heat absorption and evaporation peak.
Moving away from the equator, the ocean’s currents take center stage in shaping weather patterns. These currents are driven by surface winds, temperature differences, the Earth’s rotation, and even the moon’s gravity tracing the coastlines. By acting as a conveyor belt, these currents transport warm water and precipitation from the equator toward the poles while bringing cold water back to the tropical regions to start the cycle all over.
Without these oceanic currents, our world would be a realm of extremes, with scorching equatorial temperatures and icy polar chills, making a large portion of the Earth uninhabitable.
4 The Ocean Is Richer Than You
An estimated 20 million tons of gold is swirling within its depths. Now, before you start making plans for this fortune, know that it’s not an easy cash grab. If it were, every government in the world would have already made a play for it.
It’s so difficult to access because the gold lurking in the ocean exists in minuscule concentrations on the scale of parts per trillion. To put it into perspective, each liter of seawater contains a mere 13 billionths of a gram of gold.
If the gold was extractable and we could sell all that gold, we’d be talking mind-boggling figures—like Scrooge McDuck figures. But let’s face it; nobody will be hauling in their retirement fund from the ocean anytime soon.
Until a cost-effective method emerges, we’ll just have to satisfy our golden dreams with tales of lost booty and Hollywood stories.
3 Mystery Boops
In 1997, researchers monitoring the ocean for volcanic activity in the southern Pacific with hydrophones almost 2,050.5 feet (3,300 km) apart picked up an extremely loud and perplexing sound. The sound became known as “the Bloop,” leaving the scientific community awestruck and curious.
The Bloop sparked a multitude of conspiracies and theories as everyone tried to unravel the mystery. Some speculated that it was a classified underwater military exercise or the sounds of huge underwater ships. Others said it was giant cephalopods or undiscovered marine creatures.
Teams placed more hydrophones for the next eight years as they heard more frequent bloops. Eventually, they tracked The Bloop, and it wasn’t mythical beasts or covert technologies but something completely natural—an icequake.
2 The Coriolis Effect Is a Real Thing
When objects like air or water move across the earth’s surface, they appear to curve instead of moving in a straight line. This happens because different parts of the earth’s surface are spinning at different speeds. It’s like the carousel effect on a much larger scale!
In the Northern Hemisphere, objects moving northward seem to curve to the right, while in the Southern Hemisphere, they curve to the left. This deflection occurs because their speed relative to the surface changes as the objects move across the spinning planet. This apparent deflection is the Coriolis effect.
The Coriolis effect has important implications. It influences global wind patterns, creating prevailing winds like the trade winds and westerlies. It also affects ocean currents and even airplane flight paths. Understanding the effect helps us navigate our planet’s dynamic systems.
1 The Ocean Is a Hoarder
Have you heard about The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP)? It’s the biggest of the five plastic accumulation zones haunting our oceans, floating between Hawaii and California. Each year up to 2.66 million tons (2.41 million metric tons) of plastic end up in the sea, and over half of that never sinks.
This trash slowly travels until eventually joining the slow, swirling garbage vortex. The patch sprawls across an astonishing 0.62 square miles (1.6 million square kilometers), dwarfing Texas and France combined.
Many companies are working to clean it up, but the amount added yearly makes it a never-ending battle. Luckily earlier this year, scientists in Australia say they discovered a mold that can break down plastic in 140 days. Hopefully, it can be put to good use.