It is staggering to realize that we live in a world where we know more about space than we do about our oceans. Not only do oceans cover more than 70% of our planet, but the deep sea also encompasses around 95% of our world’s living space.
When we speak about the deep ocean, we mean beneath 200m — where the most vital ecosystem on our planet is located — while we are not fully aware of the way it functions, nor how beneficial it is.
In fact, we have a higher awareness of Mars’ surface, and we even have more information on its spacebed than we have on our seabed.
At the moment, our team of scientists is comprehensively monitoring around 5% of the ocean, while the rest 95% remains unexplored. One fact that we can be certain of is that we have disrupted oceans’ ecosystems and damaged their capacity to support life.
However, we still have an opportunity to make amends and alter the course of these resulting changes that will inevitably impact our climate, our food supply, our livelihoods, and natural resources. It is urgent to understand that we need to alter our ways before it becomes too late.
Human history shows that exploration is the first step towards progress, and this is precisely why it is always encouraged. There are over a million species that we are not aware of yet, and the potential found at the ocean floor can be the key for the sustainable development that we so desperately need. The sources of life are found here, and so are the cures for many diseases.
Oliver Steeds stated that it had been proven throughout human history that when we embark on the journey to the unknown – we move forward. The capacity of data found on the ocean floor remains unknown.
The zone that encompasses the areas of the ocean between 200m to 3,000 is more known as the Bathyal Zone, and this zone is the home to the most exceptional biodiversity found on Earth. There is a notable quantity of nutriment at the sea depths, and this is where species thrive since they are able to assert dominance, in estimated numbers of 300,000 to 10 millions. Lower access to food in the Bathyal Zone increases the potential of competitive exclusion that can be found among so many species.
Even though the extensive portion of the Bathyal Zone is still unexplored, we are aware of the complex ecosystems that continue to thrive – from coral reefs to sponge beds; the waters are filled with unique communities including deep-sea squids, sharks, and whales.
When studying more about the ocean floor, scientists are able to grasp how climate change affects the heat absorption, acidification, the carbon cycle, and many other issues that could lead to new discoveries and the resolution of the current environmental crisis. They will also be able to have a better look at the consequences of plastic, industrial, and agricultural pollution, and alleviate its effects.
Callum Roberts, who is known to be one of the Nekton Trustee, stated that our oceans were going under rapid transformations caused by harmful human activities. According to the scientific consensus, more than 30% of the ocean needs to be protected by 2030, to help the ocean’s resilient nature.
He added that since we overfished the most of surface waters, it is time to visit the deep bottom of the Bathyal Zone and discover what can be found there.
Roberts went on to remind us about the example of another successful expedition that resulted in significant changes in the world of science. From 1872 to 1876, the global Challenger expedition made a serious contribution to our methodical understanding of the ocean, which helped the birth of the marine science. Roberts emphasized that if we managed to organize a systematic expedition of the Bathyal Zone, we could hope for the same change in the marine science, and at this moment, we are in desperate need to know more and create a more sustainable solution.
Within the following ten years, we will have more means to discover our planet and its systems than we have had in the last 100,000 years of human history. Thanks to the most recent technological developments, we are ready for more knowledge, and we have the gear for the job – from Autonomous Underwater Vehicles, Remotely Operated Vehicles, to seabed mapping systems and the first DNA sequence library of marine animals. Our research capabilities are more prominent than ever, and we should take advantage of that.
But is it enough? Since the price of the new technology is dropping, the volume and the diversity of ocean information are speeding up our knowledge about our seabed diversity. Unfortunately, we are in urgent need of more technological capacity and knowledge to be able to support this expedition and potentially create sustainable solutions for our endangered ecosystem.
This is why the pressure for the cutting-edge human-operated vehicles is getting higher since it can provide a revolutionary perspective on scientific observation.
Thanks to Jacques Cousteau, the aqualung pioneer, we had the opportunity to explore some parts of the first zone under 100m, more familiar as the Sunlit Zone.
Who will be the new icons of this global odyssey and play a significant role in the ‘Bathynauts crew’ is yet to be seen.