For the closing blog of the year we were on the lookout for a topic that would inspire, invoke curiosity … or both! A question that kept on returning was how much of the oceans we have yet to explore. In the hectic last weeks of the year I surprisingly found myself with a quiet moment and sat down behind my laptop. The first words appeared on the screen. The start had been made. The telephone rang. It was my sister, who had come to Greece to spend her Christmas here. True to convention I was invited to the traditional brother-sister movie theater night. Not much later I was seated in the cinema staring at the big screen whilst enjoying my supersized Coca Cola through a straw and crunching on my Nachos with cheese.
Like any other year the Hollywood studios again released a number of big movies this holiday season. Among the much awaited movies is DC Comics’ latest superhero movie installment Aquaman. A blockbuster with a production budget that could finance a small nation. The film reveals the origin story of half-human, half-Atlantean Arthur Curry and takes him on the journey of his lifetime. Whilst the women dream away at the sight of the bare chested muscular torso of Jason Mamoa the men are treated to Amber Heard in a scaly form-fitting suit that leaves little to the imagination. The movie treats us to grant action sequences and a visually breathtaking underwater civilization inspired by the oceans’ flora and fauna. The setting for the blog had been set.
Despite the over-the-top yet entertaining interpretation of the Hollywood script writers the story of Atlantis presents a mystery that has inspired and captured the imagination of so many until this very day. The name Atlantis finds its roots in Ancient Greek: Ἀτλαντὶς νῆσος, meaning “island of Atlas". It is a fictional island mentioned within Plato's works Timaeus and Critias, where it represents the naval power that besieges ancient Athens. While there is agreement on the story's fictional character there is still debate on what may have served as its inspiration. Over the years scholars have explored potential linkages to Atlantis in for example Egyptian records of the Thera eruption, the Sea Peoples invasion, and the Trojan War. Whilst the uncertainty remains whether there was ever an advanced prehistoric island civilization that was swallowed up by the sea the search goes on. But where?
The oceans are the lifeblood of the planet. Roughly 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by the oceans and they occupy over 90% of the living space on the planet. They exert a very strong influence on the planet’s climate zones and weather systems. A large number of oceanic flora and fauna are unmissable sources of food for humans. For centuries the oceans have been essential for livelihood, transportation, exchange, trade, growth and inspiration.
Isn’t is shocking then to find out that despite this huge dependency that we have on the oceans that we have only managed to accurately map 10 to 20% of the oceans? Whilst our drive to explore and innovate has allowed us to map large parts of the moon’s surface and even Mars we have yet to explore up close over 80% of the ocean floor. Man has set foot on the moon far more times than on the deepest part of the Mariana Trench (10.920 meters below sea level). Realizing that, it suddenly isn’t as surprising any more that we have yet to find Atlantis or the civilization that inspired its conception by Plato. The reality is that until the present day many mysteries remain well hidden in the depths of the oceans, waiting to be discovered.
The immense pressure of the water column at depth, pitch-black darkness and extreme temperature differences pose a major challenge in the exploration of the deep. Both scientists and explorers continue to speculate about what mysteries remain concealed below the waves. Lost civilizations. Deep sea creatures. World altering knowledge. For example, did you know that there are waterfalls in the ocean? A number of these subsea waterfalls are higher than 979 meters, the height of the Angel Falls, the highest waterfall on Earth. There are also lakes within the oceans, some of which with depths of over 100 meters. Scientists are convinced that these submerged lakes house animal- and plant species that can be found nowhere else on the planet. The ocean floor landscape is incredibly diverse with enormous mountain ranges, canyons and valleys. It is home to countless species of plants and animals, many of which have yet to be discovered and identified. Not so long ago 297 new species of sea creatures were discovered on a single volcanic rock column in the ocean.
So much remains to be discovered in the oceans by current and future explorers. For generations to come the oceans will continue to be stuff of legend, as new treasures and mysteries are discovered within their depths … perhaps more grander, better, more exciting and more spectacular than the computer generated images on the white screen.
We wish you a spectacular 2019!