5 Things You Didn’t Know About the Ocean

In honor of World Oceans Day, here are 5 incredible facts you may not know about the ocean!

1. The largest mountains and deepest valleys on Earth are in the ocean.
Hawaii’s Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain in the world measured from base to summit. Its base begins 19,700 feet below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, making its total height 33,500 feet, almost a mile taller than Mount Everest. The Mariana Trench is the lowest point on Earth’s surface at 36,000 feet deep in the Pacific Ocean. Amazingly, it’s full of life.

The mid-ocean ridge is a 40,000 mile mountain range that extends through all major ocean basins. It is the single largest feature on Earth and the longest continuous mountain chain known to exist in the universe.

NOAA jelly mariana

This beautiful jelly was spotted during the Deepwater Exploration of the Marianas expedition on April 24, 2016. Courtesy of NOAA Ocean Exploration & Research.

2. The ocean controls our climate.
The ocean plays the largest role in the global water cycle and provides most of the rain that falls on land. It regulates Earth’s temperature by absorbing and storing heat and carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.

antarctica-482686_1280

The ocean has absorbed over 90% of the excess heat trapped in Earth’s atmosphere by greenhouse gas emissions, temporarily slowing global warming.

3. We wouldn’t be here without the ocean.
Life on Earth began in the ocean. Most of the oxygen we breathe comes from photosynthetic organisms in the ocean. Billions of people depend on the ocean for their primary source of food.

diatoms

Most of the oxygen we breathe comes from photosynthetic organisms in the ocean, like these diatoms. Courtesy of Carolina Biological Supply Company.

4. Most of the ocean remains unexplored.
The ocean contains 99% of the habitable space on Earth, but we have only explored less than 5% of it. Scientists estimate that we have yet to describe 91% of species in the ocean.

ROV

Scientists use remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to explore the deep ocean. Courtesy of NOAA Photo Library.

5. No matter where on Earth you live, you are connected to the ocean.
“Even if you never have the chance to see or touch the ocean, the ocean touches you with every breath you take, every drop of water you drink, every bite you consume. Everyone, everywhere is inextricably connected to and utterly dependent upon the existence of the sea.” ― Sylvia Earle, The World Is Blue: How Our Fate and the Ocean’s Are One

We can’t survive without the ocean. We once believed the ocean was so vast that human actions could not affect it. Now we know that as we overfish, pollute, warm and acidify the ocean, we threaten our own life support system. Our future depends on restoring our ocean while we still can.

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