Mapping the entire ocean floor is a complex task, but it is the key to improving human life.

Life at the ocean floor is extreme. It's dark, with temperatures hovering just above freezing, and immense pressure. While many species have evolved to survive and thrive in these depths, the ocean floor is completely inhospitable for humans. In fact, only a handful of people have ventured to the deepest part of the ocean floor, a place known as the Challenger Deep.

Dr. Dawn Wright is one of those individuals. She is a marine geographer and serves as the Chief Scientist of the Environmental Systems Research Institute. She is also involved in the global race to map the entire world's ocean floor by 2030, a mission experts believe is crucial not only for scientific knowledge but also for human safety and technological progress.

Taking on the Challenge When Dr. Wright descended into the Challenger Deep, it was both exhilarating and purposeful. As a marine geographer, she is fascinated by "rocks and motion on the ocean floor."

The Challenger Deep is located in the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean, about 11,000 meters or 6.7 miles below the ocean's surface. In July 2022, Dr. Wright and ocean explorer Victor Vescovo descended in a small submersible craft aptly named "Limiting Factor."

Dr. Wright compares this experience to being in a space capsule. "You are in a very small space. You are surrounded by instruments," she says. "Above us was a whole series of oxygen tanks because we had 96 hours of oxygen, extra oxygen that we took with us in case of an emergency."

Once the pair descended approximately 800 meters, they lost sunlight. "And that stays that way all the way to the bottom," says Dr. Wright. For her, this darkness made the bioluminescent display even more astonishing.

Worms, jellyfish, and anglerfish are among the creatures that can create their own light through bioluminescence, she explains. They use light to find mates, hunt, and apparently communicate with other underwater creatures. "Victor noticed flashes of light when we reached that part of the ocean. Then he started flashing lights from our submersible, and we saw them flash back in response."

In addition to marveling at the deep-sea marine life, Dr. Wright and Vescovo focused on testing a special mapping device.

Unlocking the Mysteries of the Mariana Trench, Captured on Camera DOUBLE Unlocking the Mysteries of the Mariana Trench, Captured on Camera Mapping the Ocean Floor With so few people ever reaching the ocean floor, why bother mapping it? It's less about travel and more about a multitude of other things. One of the most critical reasons is for monitoring and predicting tsunamis.

This is because most tsunamis are the result of earthquakes on the ocean floor. Dr. Wright explains that when such disturbances occur on the ocean floor, the water above it is also severely disrupted, which can lead to massive waves that can turn into tsunamis.

By mapping the ocean floor, scientists can identify and monitor underwater areas prone to earthquakes. This can provide coastal regions with more time to prepare in the event of a tsunami.

The ocean floor also serves as a crucial space for human innovation. For example, the undersea cables connecting continents make up a significant portion of our internet traffic. Additionally, developers of marine wind farms need to know the composition of the ocean floor to anchor turbines securely.

Mapping the ocean floor can also help protect vulnerable marine ecosystems and aid in search and rescue operations for people and objects lost at sea.

Historically, satellite data played a significant role in ocean mapping, but Dr. Wright notes that these maps are too blurry to capture fine details.

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