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The Little-Known Facts About The Ocean

Interest August 22, 2018 By Hugo

What really lies beneath our oceans? It's a question that has both baffled and intrigued marine biologists for many centuries. After all, vast swathes of the sea remain unexplored, and it's unlikely we will have discovered the contents of the entire seven seas anytime soon.

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To put things into perspective, only 27% of our planet is formed of dry land. That means a staggering 73% of the Earth’s surface is covered by the sea, of which only 5% has been explored. In other words: Oceanic expeditions won't be slowing down anytime soon.

However, our knowledge of the ocean, compared to previous generations at least, isn't bad, but unless you're an ocean boffin or a marine biologist, you probably haven't come across these interesting facts that, for both good and bad reasons, will make you view the ocean in an entirely different light. 

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1. The majority of the sea is entirely dark

Shutterstock/Dudarev Mikhail

If your science teacher taught you anything in school, it was probably the meaning of photosynthesis rather than the fact that light can only travel 200 meters down in the ocean. If you think about that long enough, you'll realize that the ocean is Earth's last remaining unknown. Pretty trippy, right? 200 meters is, after all, only the equivalent of two soccer pitches. That may seem deep, but in reality, that's just treading the surface.

After 200 meters, everything becomes pitch black. This area is known as the Aphotic Zone, where less than 1% of sunlight penetrates. There you will find fascinating fish such as piglet squid and helmet jelly, but here are many more species yet to be discovered. 

However, one man who overcame the suffocating pressure of the deep sea was the legendary film director James Cameron, who used his very own submarine to go where no man has gone before and set a new world record for venturing 35, 756 feet below sea level. He didn't discover any new speices, but it was a pretty impressive feat nonetheless.

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2. Bacteria galore 

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While you may feel at one with nature when you step into the sea, the ocean is actually home to thousands of bacteria and viruses. The majority of these are harmless depending on where you are swimming, but for those whose skin is prone to irritation, skin rashes, hepatitis, or staph infections are not unheard of.

In a 2016 study written in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, warmer ocean temperatures were found to sometimes spawn harmful bacteria such Vibrio in the northern seas. Vibrio is a water-borne bacterium that can cause cholera, gastroenteritis, and septicaemia.

3. Blue gold

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The ocean is a hotbed of treasure, containing nearly 20 million tons of gold that Forbes believes is worth more than $771 trillion, but before you start getting your diving suits on, you should bear in mind that it is diluted. There's also no cost-effective method of mining it, so until some genius comes up with an economical way of distilling it, it will remain untouched.  However, this obstacle hasn't stopped people trying.

In the 1890s, pastor Ford Jernegan Jernegan formed the Electrolytic Marine Salts Company to realize his dream of creating the "Gold Accumulator." But while he managed to persuade wealthy investors to part with a total of $1 million (about $26 million in today's money) the company's ambitious old-extraction operation took place in Lubec, Maine, a safe distance away from their investors, who soon realized they wouldn't see any of their cash again.

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4.  A lot of human bodies

Shutterstock/Antonio Guillem

Ocean expeditions, cruise liners, and diving courses may appear safe- and in most cases they are- but that doesn't mean people won't occasionally go missing. Over 200 people have gone missing from cruise liners since the year 2000 alone.

Moreover, around 607 people go missing every single day, and you can bet your bottom dollar that a proportion of those bodies ended up in the ocean. So next time you're swimming with the family on that all-inclusive holiday, bear in mind that there is probably a litany of dead bodies scattered on the ocean bed. 

Happy holidays! 

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