Published On: Thu, Nov 26th, 2015

How Underwater Exploration Works

Underwater exploration is still a relatively new human pursuit. We haven’t been doing it for very long. It’s essential for our understanding of the planet, and some of the most interesting discoveries in the world of science are made in the ocean. The more we explore this part of the world, the more we learn and the more our understanding of the world expands.

ROV Hercules

Exploring the depths of the ocean has many practical implications in the real world too. To find out more about them and more about the dangers, intricacies and developments of underwater exploration, read on.

The Purposes of Underwater Exploration

The first reason for exploring the depths of the ocean is the pursuit of knowledge. Humanity has always had the drive to explore and understand the world around is. And the sea remains the area of the planet that we understand the very least about. And it’s important to understand how the ocean works because it affects our overall environment, climate and weather. So, researching the ocean does have real world implications, and this is not something many people realise.

Exploring the ocean can unlock secrets the to how our planet functions. And, in practical terms, it can unlock access to natural resources. It can also help us to predict the changes in the Earth’s structure. And this, in turn, can help us to predict earthquakes and tsunamis. When we can do this, local populations that might be affected by such catastrophes can be evacuated to minimise injuries and deaths. Scientists are also very interested in finding new species and exploring the biodiversity of the ocean. We still don’t have a firm grasp on such things.

Where it All Started

The very first recorded attempt at oceanic research was actually conducted as far back as the 16th century. In 1521, Ferdinand Magellan tried to measure how deep the Pacific Ocean was. But, unfortunately, he failed in his attempt. He used a weighted line that measured 2400 feet, but it didn’t reach the bottom of the ocean. This was a pretty rudimentary effort. And not much progress was made in the few hundred years after Magellan’s thwarted attempts to measure the Pacific’s depth.

We had to wait for nearly 300 years before a major breakthrough was made in terms of deep-sea research. In 1818, a British researcher called Sir John Ross was the first person to discover that the depths of the ocean are inhabited by life. He used a device that managed to catch jellyfish at 6500 feet. The Challenger Expedition in 1872 was the first expedition to start to get an accurate idea of how diverse life at the bottom of the ocean is.

Modern Technologies

The vehicles that divers have to use to go to the bottom of the ocean have to be specifically designed to make them safe. They are steel chambers with reinforced glass that can resist the pressure of the deep-sea ocean waters. Understandably, these chambers cost a lot of money to develop and create because the special skills that go into making them. Film director James Cameron recently took to the depths of the ocean when he went down to the deepest part of the Mariana Trench. The submersible vehicle called the Deepsea Challenger.

The other option that sea explorers have to consider is robotic voyagers. Because of the risks involved, as we’ll discuss below, it often makes more sense to send unmanned vehicles. Remotely operated vehicles are used by scientists all the time. The best underwater drone is equipped with grabbers and camera equipment. This means that scientists can sit on the boat and control the drone and see what’s going on beneath the surface. It takes some of the risk out of sea exploration.

The Risks and Dangers

Exploring the sea is inherently risky. There’s no way of escaping that fact. This is why measures have to be put in place to make sure that sea explorations don’t go wrong and result in deaths. One of the major dangers is the pressure that you find in the ocean. The further down you go, the greater the pressure. And this means that if a person is not enclosed in a secure vehicle, they will simply be killed. This known as implosion. If the vehicle is not designed in the right way, the whole structure can implode, and the person inside will be instantly be crushed.

Other risks include penetrator failure. This is when the supply that delivers power to the vehicles you’re in fails. If this happens, there are few ways of getting out the situation. There’s also the risk of failing to time the exploration correctly. Running out of oxygen will result in a quick death as well. That’s why it’s so vital that explorations are in contact with a boat on the surface that can monitor the situation safely. Without this, the exploration would be far too dangerous.
Key Scientific Research

In one of the very first deep-sea expeditions in 1872, 4417 new species of marine organisms were discovered over the course of 4 years. This was the beginning of the big scientific discoveries that have been made over the past century and a half. The main aim of exploring what lies at the bottom of the ocean is scientific. It helps us to discover more about the world that lies out of our usual field of vision. We still don’t understand a great deal about how the ecosystem at the bottom of the ocean really works.

Deep-sea exploration is something that has not been happening for very long, so discoveries are being made all the time. Each time a new expedition is made, new discoveries are also made. In recent years, new deep-sea jellyfish have been discovered, such as the Stellamedusa. In 2010, the first ever cataloging of ocean biodiversity was carried out. The data was collected in an online database and covered the diversity, abundance and distribution of marine species. This was a huge landmark for ocean exploration.