A project to map the world’s seabeds may finally see the ocean’s give up their secrets.
A massive undertaking is underway to reveal what lies beneath the oceans that cover 70% of the Earth’s surface.
Scientists hope to complete the map by 2030.
When they do, the whereabouts of sunken cities, ships and aircraft will be laid bare.
Many are hoping mysteries like the fate of the Malaysian flight MH370, the legends of the lost world of Atlantis and the final resting place of intrepid flier Amy Johnson will finally be resolved.
Why map the seabed?
The Seabed 2030 project is headed by the Japanese Nippon Foundation, aided by governments and research groups around the world.
They hope to collate data from undersea exploration to show what really lies in the hidden depths of the world’s oceans.
Although oceans and seas only cover around 40% of the northern hemisphere, the southern hemisphere is covered by vast and mainly undiscovered waters.
Besides revealing secrets, the map is intended to carry out scientific research to find ways to protect the oceanic environment and to discover ways to better use the sea as a resource while maintaining sustainability.
Researchers say understanding the seabed also helps climate control, as the seas regulate the planet’s temperature between the icy poles and the warm tropics.
Answers to fundamental problems
Seabed maps will also help predict earthquakes and tsunami waves. The data will also help manage fishing stocks, route cables and the exploitation of mineral resources.
So far, only around 20% of the seabed is mapped. Much of the data comes from more than a century ago, when sailors plumbed the depths with lead weights thrown overboard from ships on ropes.
“We know more about planets and moons in the solar system than we do about our own oceans,” says the Seabed 2030 web site. “This poses fundamental problems for humanity that we hope to resolve.”
The mandate to map the oceans was granted to the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO).
Scientists plan to make a high definition digital map of the seabed with sonar equipment mounted on research vessels. They will criss-cross the oceans in the same way satellites mapped the surface of Mars, the Moon and the Earth.