Even as we circumnavigate the world, land on the moon and explore the reaches of outer space, much of the ocean remains unexplored. As previously unknown creatures or whales with giant tentacle marks wash up on beaches, the deep ocean is just as mysterious as it was when the Greeks were praying to Poseidon. Thanks to extreme cold and crushing pressure, exploring the deep ocean is nearly impossible. However, a team of scientists recently made an extremely detailed map of more than 4,000 square miles of seafloor off Hawaii, which reveals both secret geological signs and clues as to where the life of the deep oceans could be hiding.
To build this map, the team used multibeam sonar, which fires out lots of pings in a short ribbon of sound that collects over 400 depth points for each ping. This offers the team extremely high-resolution images significantly more detailed than previous sonar tech of seamounts that could be home to unique and possibly unknown deep-sea life. Although the region they were mapping was already an established marine preserve, it could be a major life-saver in other parts of the world. Seafloor mining is becoming more and more prevalent, and the researchers hope to use this technology to safeguard places that marine life live before people start mining in other locations.
Deep sea mining is still a relatively new phenomenon, which centers around active and extinct hydrothermal vents that create globular sulfide deposits. These contain valuable metals such as silver, gold, copper, manganese, cobalt and zinc. Since it’s still in its infancy, it’s raised a lot of questions about its potential environmental impact. Due to its potential for damage and pollution to deep sea ecosystems, environmental groups have advocated outlawing it.
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