There’s nothing more relaxing than an amazing beach vacation. But there’s a lot more to the ocean than providing a great view for daiquiri drinking. In fact, there’s so much going on in the oceans that we’ve barely scratched the surface when it comes to exploring and researching them.
But what we have learned about our oceans is nothing short of amazing. The oceans are home to some of the planet’s most extreme geologic features, and more life than you probably imagined. We’ve rounded up 30 mind-blowing facts about the ocean that you’ve probably never heard of, each more amazing than the last. And if you’d like to find the best place to observe the magnificence of the ocean from a safe distance, discover 9 of the World’s Greatest Beach Vacations.
It Holds the Vast Majority of All Life
With so much going on well below the surface, it’s easy to forget that the oceans are teeming with life. In fact, 94 percent of life is aquatic, which makes those of us who live on land part of a very, very small minority.
Coral Produces Its Own Sunscreen
For coral in shallow water, too much sunlight can damage the algae that live inside the coral. To protect the algae, which are a main source of sustenance for the coral, the corals fluoresce. This creates proteins that act as a sort of sunscreen for the algae. And if you’d like to protect yourself from the sun, Here’s How to Figure Out Which SPF You Should Use.
The Ocean Is Full of Gold
There is around 20 million tons of gold dispersed throughout the waters of the oceans. It is, however, incredibly diluted, with only a few parts per trillion. The ocean floor also has undissolved gold embedded in it, but it’s not cost-effective to mine it. However, if it were equally distributed among every person on earth, everyone would receive nine pounds of gold.
Sea Ice Is Drinkable
You can’t drink sea water, but you can drink sea ice. However, you don’t want to drink fresh sea ice, which still has little pockets of brine trapped in between ice crystals and is too salty. As the ice ages, the brine drains out, and the ice becomes fresh enough that it can be melted and consumed. This type of aged ice, called multiyear ice, actually provides water for some polar expeditions. And to find out how drinkable your water is, check out The 25 U.S. Cities With the Best Drinking Water.
Sharks Have Their Own Café
Humans aren’t the only ones in need of a winter vacation. In 2002, scientists discovered an area in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean, partway between Baja California and Hawaii, where typically coastal great white sharks will migrate to in the winter and spring. They named the spot the White Shark Café. The typical travel time for a shark to get there is 100 days, and once there, they feast on a food chain too deep to be detected by satellite. Some sharks hang around the café for months before heading back to the coast for warmer weather and elephant seal breeding season.
The Ocean Is Our Greatest Source of Oxygen
When you think of where the air we breathe comes from, you probably think of majestic sequoias or a rain forest, but most of the oxygen in our atmosphere actually comes from tiny plants in the ocean called phytoplankton. Although it’s hard to pin down the exact amount of oxygen phytoplankton contribute because their numbers rise and fall during the year, scientists estimate it’s anywhere from 50 percent to 85 percent of the atmosphere’s oxygen.
The Pacific Is Wider Than the Moon
At its widest point, from Indonesia all the way to Colombia, the Pacific Ocean is wider than the moon, by quite a lot. This expanse of ocean is 12,300 miles across, which is more than five times the diameter of the moon. And if you think that’s crazy, wait until you see these 30 Amazing Facts That Will Change the Way You View the World.
Icebergs Could Supply Cities With Water for Years
A large iceberg from Antarctica could conceivably supply one million people with fresh water for five years. But this piece of information isn’t just a great way to illustrate how massive these icebergs are. A company in the United Arab Emirates is actually planning to begin towing icebergs from Antarctica to the coast for exactly this reason. The country receives, on average, just four inches of rainfall each year, and is at risk of serious drought in the next 25 years, but may be able to solve the problem with this iceberg water solution.
Pressure at the Bottom of the Ocean Would Crush You Like an Ant
In the Mariana Trench, about 35,802 feet below the surface, the water pressure is eight tons per square inch. That’s the equivalent of one person holding up 50 jumbo jets.
Oceans Have Lakes and Rivers Too
The ocean is like an entirely separate world. There are trenches, mountains, and volcanos, and there are also lakes and rivers. As seawater makes its way through layers of salt, it forms little depressions on the sea floor. Because the water around these depressions has more salt in it than normal seawater, it’s denser and sinks into the depressions, creating little briny pools. These are a lot like the lakes we know, in that they have shorelines, and some of them even have waves.
Earth’s Biggest Waterfall Is in the Ocean
The tallest waterfall you’re going to see on land is Angel Falls in Venezuela, which has a drop of over 3,200 feet. But that’s nothing compared the Denmark Strait Cataract, which is an underwater waterfall in between Greenland and Iceland formed by the temperature difference in the water on either side of the strait. When the cold water from the east hits the warmer water from the west, it flows underneath the warm water, with a drop of 11,500 feet. The flow rate of the waterfall is 175 million cubic feet per second, which is nearly 2,000 times that of Niagara Falls.
The Loudest Ocean Sound Remained a Mystery for 15 Years
In 1997, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration captured one of the loudest sounds ever recorded, which was named the Bloop. The sound was loud enough to be picked up by sensors over 3,000 miles away. Originally, researches noted that the nature of the sound made it seem like it came from an animal, although no known animal exists that is large enough to make that sound. After 15 years, the NOAA concluded that the noise came from an icequake, which is when seismic activities cause a break in frozen ground. However, many people still question this conclusion, and the Bloop is the source of many conspiracy theories to this day.
More People Have Been to the Moon Than the Mariana Trench
In human history, one dozen people have set foot on the moon. At the same time, only three people have managed to make it to the Mariana Trench because of the extreme conditions present there.
We Have Better Maps of Mars Than of the Ocean
But the Mariana Trench isn’t the only part of the ocean we haven’t explored. Less than five percent of the ocean has been explored, and in fact, we have better maps of Mars than of the oceans, despite the fact that it’s nearly 50 million miles away.
The World’s Largest Living Structure Is in the Ocean
The world’s largest living structure isn’t an enormous copse of trees or even a massive fungus, it’s the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia. The reef is spread out over an area of 133,000 square miles, and is so huge it can actually be seen from outer space.
The Mediterranean Used to Be Dry
The Mediterranean used to be a dry basin, until an event called the Zanclean flood, in which water from the Atlantic poured through the Strait of Gibraltar and filled the basin some 5.33 million years ago. Theories abound as to how this happened, but one catastrophic interpretation has the basin filling up in only two years, thanks to a massive torrent of water.
99 Percent of Earth’s Living Space Is in the Ocean
The oceans make up almost all of the living space on Earth. This makes the world’s oceans the largest spaces in the known universe inhabited by living organisms.
The Ocean’s Canyons Make the Grand Canyon Seem Small
The Monterey Canyon off the coast of California has depths that rival that of the Grand Canyon, but neither one is as big as the Zemchug Canyon, located in the Bering Sea. The Zemchug Canyon has a vertical relief of 8,520 feet, which is almost 2,500 feet deeper than the Grand Canyon.
The Antarctic Ice Sheet Is Massive
Every year, an ice sheet that is roughly the size of the the continental United States and Mexico combined forms and melts in Antarctica.
The Ocean Has More Artifacts Than All the World’s Museums
The ocean is home to innumerable treasures and artifacts, thanks to shipwrecks and ruins. National Geographic estimates that there are more treasures on the bottom of the ocean than in all the world’s museums combined.
Most of Earth’s Volcanic Activity Happens in the Ocean
When it comes to volcanic activity, the oceans have the most going on by a wide margin. In fact, 90 percent of all the volcanic activity on the planet happens in the ocean, and the largest known concentration of active volcanoes is in the South Pacific. It’s only the size of New York, but it contains a whopping 1,133 volcanoes.
Tsunamis Move Insanely Fast
Tsunamis get triggered by seismic events and can move across the ocean at speeds of 500 miles per hour when the ocean depth is 3.7 miles. These waves are usually unnoticed, as they are only a few inches high. As they move towards land, they pick up water and increase in size.
Most of Our Planet Is Dark
About 70 percent of our planet is covered by the oceans, which have an average depth of 12,500 feet. Because light waves can only penetrate 330 feet of water, everything below that is dark. This means that most of the planet exists in absolute darkness all the time.
The US Lost a Hydrogen Bomb in the Ocean
Every year, shipping containers get lost in the ocean, and oil spills are unfortunately common. But in 1966, the United States manage to lose a hydrogen bomb in the ocean. Luckily, it was eventually found with the help of a Spanish fisherman.
A Majority of Earth’s Life Forms Are Undiscovered and Underwater
Because precious little of the oceans has been explored, it is currently estimated that 86 percent of the species that exist on Earth have yet to be discovered.
The Arctic Produces Thousands of Icebergs Annually
Every year, the Arctic produces 10,000 to 50,000 icebergs. In fact, too many icebergs are produced in Antarctica too count.
Just One Inch of the Oceans Is a Massive Quantity of Water
The top one inch of water from all the oceans is the same amount of water that’s found in our atmosphere.
The Planet’s Longest Mountain Range Is in the Ocean
The longest mountain range above water is the Andes, which is about 4,300 miles long. The actual longest mountain range on Earth, however, is the Mid-Oceanic Ridge, which is around 34,800 miles long.
The Oceans Are Filled With Shipwrecks
In addition to the world’s largest living structure and 94 percent of life, the oceans are home to around 3 million shipwrecks.
Water at the Bottom of the Ocean Is Incredibly Hot
In the deepest parts of the ocean, the water temperature may only be 2-4 degrees Celsius, with the exception of water coning out of hydrothermal vents in the seafloor. The water coming out of these vents can be up to 400 Celsius, or 750 Fahrenheit. The intense pressure at this depth (the same pressure that would crush a human) keeps the water from boiling. And if you want to learn more fascinating science, check out the 30 Craziest Scientific Discoveries of Our Lifetime.
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