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The ocean floor

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The Ocean Floor No one has ever walked the sea floor and few have even seen it. This is because of the extreme conditions found there. It is dark, and the temperature is close to freezing.

A person standing on the sea floor would be under tremendous pressure from the overlaying water. The pressure is hundreds of times greater than the atmospheric pressure. Such a force would crush the human body. Using research submersibles which are specially designed to with stand the pressure of the water, scientists are able to view portions of the sea floor by peering through windows made of crystal ? thick. Still most of what we know about the sea floor has not come from personal observation. It has been learned by using remote sampling tools and marine robots.

Using these objects has produced a vast amount of information. The deep sea floor is the most tectonically vigorous region of our earth. Oceans cover more than 70% of our earth surface and have several different regions. As you move from the coast line you encounter the ocean shelf, it is 1/6th of the earths’ surface.

Next there is the slope which is a drop deep into the ocean. At the base of the slope there is the continental rise which has a gradual rise and debris coming of the continent is deposited here. The continental slope marks the true edge of the continent, where the rock that makes up the continent stops and the rock of the ocean floor begins. Beyond this slope is the abyssal plain a smooth and nearly flat area of the ocean floor. It is here that debris from the continent settles.

In some places, deep, steep-sided canyons called trenches cut into the abyssal plain. A continuous range of mountains called the mid-ocean ridge winds around Earth like a seam on a baseball. There are mountains on the abyssal plain, too. Some reach above the ocean surface to form volcanic islands. Others, called seamounts are completely under water.

These forms are covered by pelagic sentiments which soften them like a snowfall. Most of the volcanoes are inactive with the exception of those found in the mid ocean ridges. There is a discrepancy in the age of the continental crust and the ocean floor. It would appear that the continental crust which can be dated back four billon years is much older than the ocean floor, which appears to be only 200 million years old.

This is because the sea floor becomes older as you move from the mid-ocean ridges. The sea floor originates and grows outward from the ridges. This process is called sea floor spreading. As volcano lava is released through the fissures it spreads away from the mid-ocean ridges becoming cooler and denser.

It eventually sinks back into the earth at continental ridges through a process called seduction. Therefore the ocean floor is constantly renewing itself, which gives it the appearance of being younger. Sampling instruments are used to obtain physical samples of the ocean floor. Echo sounding technology is used to study the structure and composition of the ocean floor.

This technology allows a broad three dimensional view of the ocean floor topology. Understanding this technology is a key element to improve our abilities to locate resources in a marine environment to replace those that are being depleted. It also helps us to understand global changes.

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