Curious to Know and See: How deep is the Ocean Really? (Video)

By Curious

The deep sea or deep layer is the lowest layer in the ocean, existing below the thermocline and above the seabed, at a depth of 1000 fathoms (1800 m) or more. Little or no light penetrates this part of the ocean and most of the organisms that live there rely for subsistence on falling organic matter produced in the photic zone. For this reason scientists once assumed that life would be sparse in the deep ocean but virtually every probe has revealed that, on the contrary, life is abundant in the deep ocean.

Curious to Know and See: How deep is the Ocean Really? (Video)

In 1960 the Bathyscaphe Trieste descended to the bottom of the Mariana Trench near Guam, at 35,798 feet or 6.77 miles (10,911 meters), the deepest known spot in any ocean. If Mount Everest (8,848 metres) were submerged there, its peak would be more than a mile beneath the surface. The Trieste was retired and for a while the Japanese remote-operated vehicle (ROV) Kaikō was the only vessel capable of reaching this depth. It was lost at sea in 2003. In May and June 2009, the hybrid-ROV (HROV) Nereus returned to the Challenger Deep for a series of three dives to depths exceeding 10900 meters.

It has been suggested that more is known about the Moon than the deepest parts of the ocean. Little was known about the extent of life on the deep ocean floor until the discovery of thriving colonies of shrimps and other organisms around hydrothermal vents in the late 1970s. Before the discovery of the undersea vents, it had been accepted that almost all life on earth obtained its energy (one way or another) from the sun. The new discoveries revealed groups of creatures that obtained nutrients and energy directly from thermal sources and chemical reactions associated with changes to mineral deposits. These organisms thrive in completely lightless and anaerobic environments in highly saline water that may reach 300 °F (150 °C), drawing their sustenance from hydrogen sulfide, which is highly toxic to almost all terrestrial life. The revolutionary discovery that life can exist under these extreme conditions changed opinions about the chances of there being life elsewhere in the universe. Scientists now speculate that Europa, one of Jupiter's moons, may be able to support life beneath its icy surface, where there is evidence of a global ocean of liquid water.