Scratching The Surface: Astonishing Facts About The Ocean

Covering more than half of the surface of our planet, the oceans contain some of Earth’s most unique lifeforms and countless species that we have yet to discover. Take a look at these “deep” facts about the oceans that will give you a new appreciation for these impressive bodies of water and all the mysteries they contain.

There’s More Than Enough Gold To Go Around

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Robert Alexander/Getty Images
Robert Alexander/Getty Images

It’s estimated that there are somewhere around 20 million tons of gold spread throughout the Earth’s oceans. While that might sound like a lot, according to the National Ocean Service, it’s broken down into tiny particles that would be essentially impossible to capture.

In addition, the ocean floor has gold buried beneath it, yet unfortunately, it would cost more to mine than it would even be worth. If you were somehow able to bring all the gold together in one place, each person on Earth would theoretically receive nine pounds.

More People Have Been To The Moon Than The Bottom Of The Ocean

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Xinhua/Liu Shiping via Getty Images
Xinhua/Liu Shiping via Getty Images

While it’s no secret that the ocean is deep, it’s actually much deeper than most people might assume. The lowest point in the ocean is known as the Challenger Deep, which is located in the western Pacific Ocean at the southern end of the Mariana Trench. This place is so hard to reach that more people have been to the moon than down there!

The trench is more than 36,200 feet deep and is so big that all of Mount Everest could fit inside. Researcher and explorer Victor Vescovo made history when he became the first person to reach the deepest part of the ocean between 2018 and 2019.

Icebergs Could Help With A Lack Of Fresh Water

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Massimo Rumi / Barcroft Media / Barcroft Media via Getty Images
Massimo Rumi / Barcroft Media / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

In Antarctica, there’s an iceberg that contains more than 20 billion gallons of water. To put that into perspective, it means that one million people would have fresh drinking water for a whole five years.

In fact, there’s so much fresh water trapped in icebergs that companies are looking into moving icebergs from Antarctica to somewhere all that water can be harvested. This could greatly help countries such as the United Arab Emirates that only receive a mere four inches of rainfall a year.

The World’s Biggest Waterfall Isn’t Above Land

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Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

Pictured here, Angel Falls in Venezuela is considered to be the tallest waterfall on land. It stands more than 3,200 feet tall. However, in comparison to the Denmark Strait Cataract, Angel Falls is nothing to marvel at.

The Denmark Strait Cataract is an underwater waterfall located between Greenland and Iceland that’s influenced by the temperature difference in the water on either side of the strait. When the East’s cold water makes contact with the West’s warmer water, the cold water moves like a waterfall, flowing downward more than 11,500 feet.

Tsunamis Can Travel At Hundreds Of Miles An Hour

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JIJI PRESS/AFP via Getty Images
JIJI PRESS/AFP via Getty Images

The NOAA’s Pacific Tsunami Warning Center studies have shown that tsunamis can move as fast as 500 miles per hour.

These waves are typically caused by underwater seismic activity, yet, they usually go unnoticed, as they are only a few inches above the water’s surface by the time they reach land. However, if the underwater earthquake occurs close to a shoreline, there could be a serious tsunami threat traveling hundreds of miles an hour.

The Mediterranean Wasn’t Always A Sea

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DENIS LOVROVIC/AFP via Getty Images
DENIS LOVROVIC/AFP via Getty Images

Unbelievably, the Mediterranean as we know it used to be dry as a bone until around five million years ago. It was filled with water during the Zanclean flood, when water from the Atlantic poured through the Strait of Gibraltar, creating our beautiful Meditteranean Sea.

Some researchers believe that the basin managed to fill up with water in just two years, although there are several theories about how so much water could have been filled in this short amount of time.

The Biggest Waves Are Actually The Ones That Aren’t Seen

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Ian Forsyth/Getty Images
Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

While we might think that rogue waves and tsunamis are the biggest that an ocean can produce, eerily, the biggest waves are actually beneath the surface.

The largest waves in the ocean are called internal waves, which can travel for thousands of miles and can grow to be an impressive 650 feet tall. So, if the surface of the ocean appears to be calm, there could be a lot of activity occurring underneath.

We Have Better Maps Of Mars Than The Ocean

Man underwater
Estate Of Keith Morris/Redferns/Getty Images
Estate Of Keith Morris/Redferns/Getty Images

According to the National Ocean Service, “more than eighty percent of our ocean is unmapped, unobserved, and unexplored.” Even crazier is that despite the fact that although it’s almost 50 million miles away from it, we still have better maps of Mars than we do of our oceans right in front of us!

Because so little of the ocean has been explored, it’s estimated that 91 percent of the species that exist beneath the waves have yet to be discovered.

Great White Sharks Have Their Own Hangout Spot

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Prisma Bildagentur/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Prisma Bildagentur/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Apparently, sharks prefer to stay in warmer waters when it’s cold out. In 2002, scientists found an area in the Pacific Ocean, between Baja California and Hawaii, where coastal great white sharks travel during the winter months.

Scientists have appropriately named the location the White Shark Cafe, finding that some of the sharks stay in the area for months before they head back to the coast during the warmer times of the year.

There Are Millions Of Shipwrecks Beneath The Waves

Painting of a shipwreck
Culture Club/Getty Images
Culture Club/Getty Images

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, it is estimated that there are more than three million shipwrecks scattered across the world’s oceans. Even though humans have been traveling on ships for thousands of years, that’s still a huge number.

Because of all these shipwrecks, National Geographic estimates that there is more treasure buried at the bottom of the ocean than in all of the world’s museums combined. So, if you’re going on a treasure hunt, your best bet would be to start at the bottom of the ocean!

Earth’s Longest Mountain Range Is Underwater

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Geography Photos/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Geography Photos/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

At 4,300 miles long, the longest mountain range above water is the Ande. It spans along the western edge of South America. However, the title for the longest mountain range on Earth belongs to the Mid-Oceanic Ridge. This underwater behemoth crosses all continents and is an unbelievable 40,390 miles long.

This mountain range has an average depth of 8,500 feet and was formed by plate tectonics, the movement of the plates of the Earth’s lithosphere.

The Water At The Bottom Can Be Dangerously Hot

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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

In the deepest depths of the ocean, the water temperature may only be around 35 degrees Fahrenheit, which isn’t very hot at all. However, that’s not the case for the water coming out of hydrothermal vents in the seafloor. The water that comes out of these can be up to 750 degrees Fahrenheit!

The heat isn’t the only thing you have to worry about at those depths, either. The pressure is so intense down there that it actually prevents the ocean water from boiling.

Sunlight Is What Gives The Ocean Its Blue Color

Picture of the ocean
Andrew Redington/Getty Images
Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Although the ocean would be described by most people as blue, the water itself isn’t actually any particular color. Put it in a glass, and you’ll see that the water isn’t blue at all. The ocean actually gets its color the way that the water absorbs colors of the light spectrum.

The water essentially acts as a filter, leaving behind colors in the blue part of the spectrum. The deeper you go into the ocean, the “bluer” it gets since blue wavelengths penetrate much deeper than other wavelengths.

Thousands Of New Species Are Found In The Ocean Each Year

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Reinhard Dirscherl/ullstein bild via Getty Images
Reinhard Dirscherl/ullstein bild via Getty Images

There is no lack of biodiversity in the ocean, with species ranging from single-celled organisms to some of the biggest animals in the world, such as whales. Yet even though we all know about the fish, crustaceans, and more call the ocean home, there’s infinitely more than meets the eye.

Some researchers claim that we have only identified around 1/3 of the marine life in the ocean, and we are currently discovering 2,0000 new species a year!. Of course, this doesn’t mean we are always finding breaking-news-worthy creatures, but it shouldn’t be surprising if we did!

One Of The Loudest Ocean Sounds Ever Recorded Came From An “Icequake”

GPicture of cracked ice
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

One of the loudest sounds ever recorded underwater was by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 1997. Known by scientists as “The Bloop,” incredibly, the noise was heard by sensors in place that were over 3,0000 miles away.

For a brief time, the researchers concluded that it may have come from some animal, but this theory was eventually proven wrong with the NOAA stating that the noise was the result of an icequake, which occurs when seismic activity breaks large sheets of ice.

Point Nemo Is As Desolate As It Gets

Picture of a boat and whale
Mark Carwardine / Barcroft Media / Getty Images
Mark Carwardine / Barcroft Media / Getty Images

Located in the South Pacific is a Place referred to as Point Nemo, which is considered to be the most remote place on Earth. Its name is Latin for “No one,” and is about 1,600 kilometers from the nearest piece of land and around 2,700 kilometers from the nearest inhabited land.

Point Nemo is so desolate, that sometimes the nearest humans are actually astronauts that are aboard the International Space Station around 258 miles away. Point Nemo is also used as a space cemetery with more than one hundred spacecraft being disposed beneath the waves.

Our Plastic Is Killing The Ocean And Its Inhabitants

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Sebnem Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Sebnem Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Each year, it’s estimated that seven million tons of plastic are dumped into our oceans, whether legally or illegally. What’s even worse is that the plastic then ends up in all of the different marine life, all the way down to the microscopic level.

According to an investigation by the University of California San Diego, the fish in the Northern Pacific swallow anywhere from 12,0000 to 24,0000 tons of plastic each year. Not only is this bad for the fish, but humans who eat the fish too because they’re contaminated with plastic!

The Ocean Provides Us With More Oxygen Than Most People Know

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Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

On top of providing us with an incredibly diverse ecosystem, the ocean also gives an estimated 70 percent of the Earth’s oxygen. So yes, we definitely need it in order to survive! This is made possible by the process of photosynthesis made by marine plankton, algae, and other forms of bacteria.

Next time you take in a deep breath of the ocean air, you can thank the ocean for providing you with the oxygen necessary for your survival. Oxygen doesn’t just come from the rainforest!

Coral Reefs Aren’t Just Beautiful To Look At

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Auscape/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Auscape/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Although coral reefs only cover an extremely small percentage of the seafloor, what they do is support more than 1/4 of the known marine life. Because of this, that also means that coral reefs help provide food for hundreds of millions of people on top of their natural way of blocking storms.

Currently, the NOAA estimates the economic value of coral reef services in the U.S. at around $30 billion per year, but then again, you can’t really put a price on them. Sadly, much of the coral reef is dying along with the marine life that calls it home.

There’s An Immortal Jellyfish

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Ian Gavan/Getty Images
Ian Gavan/Getty Images

The Turritopsis dohrnii is a species of jellyfish that is practically immortal by biological definition. After living a full life, if they find themselves sick, aging, dying, or in any situation that could cause natural death, these jellyfish can physically revert to an earlier stage of development, therefore beating death and old age.

Scientists claim that these jellyfish can more or less live forever unless a predator or other external factors kill them. We wonder how old the oldest one is!

The World’s Biggest Migration Happens In The Ocean Every Day

Picture of shark
Alexis Rosenfeld/Getty Images
Alexis Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Every day, the largest animal migration occurs beneath the surface of the ocean. This spectacular sight happens every night when millions of deep-sea creatures travel thousands of meters upwards to feed on plankton that rises to the surface. However, this only lasts for a brief time before the plankton go back into the depths.

This is known as the diel vertical migration, and it happens like clockwork around the same time every day. However, there are some events that impact this migration, such as the midnight sun in Arctic regions and solar eclipses.

Baby Sharks Eat Each Other In The Womb

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Auscape/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Auscape/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

While still in their mother’s uterus, the embryos of sand tiger sharks will eat their siblings. While it sounds horrifying, the act is known as embryonic cannibalism, and although the mother shark may start with 10 embryos, she will only ever give birth to a maximum of two.

This means that any sand tiger shark that’s born managed to not only survive the pregnancy but also avoided being eaten by one of their siblings. Clearly, it’s a hard life being a sand tiger shark, from a very young age.

An Octopus Relies Heavily On Its Arms

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David Fleetham/VW PICS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
David Fleetham/VW PICS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Despite their appearance, octopuses are unique for a number of reasons. One thing that separates them from many other animals on both land and sea is that their neural network extends out of their brain and into their arms.

This means that each of their limbs essentially has a separate brain which allows for them to have incredible control over their arms and individual suckers. Furthermore, because octopus’ can also regrow their arms, that means that they also have the capability to re-grow brain tissue. This is something few other species can do.

Giant Squid Used To Be A Myth

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Ministry of Fisheries via Getty Images
Ministry of Fisheries via Getty Images

Back in 2004, a group of researchers in Japan became the first ever to capture a giant squid that was still alive in the wild. Although they are technically the largest invertebrate in the world, by no means does that mean they are easy to find, let alone catch on camera.

The largest giant squid ever found was more than 59 feet long and weighed an entire ton! One reason why spotting these squid is so rare is that they’re known for living in seemingly bottomless waters, out of the sight of human eyes and camera lenses.

Sea Sponges Have Been Around Forever

Picture of sea sponge
Alexis Rosenfeld/Getty Images
Alexis Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Sea sponges are multicellular organisms that have bodies full of pores. These pores and channels allow for water to circulate through them. Incredibly, sponges do not have nervous, digestive, or circulatory systems, so they mostly rely on the water that flows through their bodies to eat, breathe, remove waste, and accomplish other functions.

Sponges are considered to be the sister group of all other animals and were the first to branch off the evolutionary tree from the common ancestor of all animals. Sea sponges have been around for more than 640 million years with some living longer than 11,000 years! This means they’re older than some dinosaurs!

Corals Produce Sunscreen

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Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

When studying the Great Barrier Reef, scientists discovered that some corals produce a natural sunscreen. This is a protection mechanism against UVA/UVB rays while simultaneously protecting the fish that feed on the coral. That’s what we call a symbiotic relationship!

While the sunscreen is being extracted for human use, this could potentially destroy a huge portion of the reefs and harm the fish that call it their home. We’ve already done enough harm, so it’s best we leave them and their sunscreen alone.

Oceans Cover More Than 70% Of Earth’s Surface

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Heritage Space/Heritage Images/Getty Images
Heritage Space/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Astonishingly, more than 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by our oceans. Because so much of the planet is ocean water, it’s understandable how we haven’t explored nearly as much of it as most might think.

Furthermore, because so much of the Earth’s surface is water, it’s no surprise that marine life vastly outnumbers the life that can be found on land. It’s estimated that around 94% of the species on the Earth can actually be found in the ocean.

There Could Be Oceans On Other Planets, We Just Haven’t Found Them Yet

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YE AUNG THU/AFP via Getty Images
YE AUNG THU/AFP via Getty Images

Earth exists in a sweet spot that makes it not too hot, too cold, and with just enough pressure to prevent the water on its surface from evaporating into space. Because the water does not evaporate means that we and all the other organisms get to exist. And although we don’t know about the existence of other planets or moons with oceans, many scientists believe that they may be out there.

There’s some evidence that there’s water on Mars, although underground, and that there very well could be liquid oceans under the ice of both Jupiter and Saturn’s moons.

It Takes Water Around 10,000 Years To Travel Around The Globe

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Marck Botha / Barcroft Media / Barcroft Media via Getty Images
Marck Botha / Barcroft Media / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Although oceans have waves, tides, and currents, there is also a constantly-moving water system beneath the surface, dictated by temperature and salinity. This is referred to as the global ocean conveyor belt, with one of its starting points located in Norway.

As ice forms in the ocean, the water left behind becomes saltier and therefore heavier, causing it to sink. This cold and salty water then flows along the ocean’s bottom, where it is mixed with the water from Antarctica and then into the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It takes around 10,000 years for this extensive water cycle to be completed.

Keep An Eye Out For Rogue Waves

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GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images
GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images

Although they may seem like something we only see in movies, rogue waves definitely exist. These waves are massive, dangerous, and can appear without warning in the middle of the ocean.

The largest measured rogue wave was recorded in February 2000 by a British ship, the RRS Discovery, which saw waves bigger big enough to easily sink a ship if nobody was paying attention. Although the reason for rogue waves is not entirely apparent, it’s assumed that they happen more often when an ocean current runs opposite of the direction of the waves.