When you wade into the water to cool off and enjoy the surf at the beach, there’s the safety of knowing your feet are touching the ocean’s floor. It feels, for a moment, much like the comfort of land. You are standing, you are aware of what’s beneath you.
And then suddenly you’re not. You are whisked away by the waves and the current, as you use your limbs to keep you afloat. The knowingness of what is actually beneath you begins to disappear, and you are forced into allowing that realization to become okay.
When you jump off a boat in the middle of the ocean, this idea is heightened even further. You are knowingly plunging yourself into the world you know little about. You have seen movies and documentaries, you’ve snorkeled, gone diving, and taken plenty of science classes — all meaningless in the face of the reality of the ocean’s vastness. It is not where you live day in and day out. It’s not made of homes with other humans, a government, a protective police force. It is the wild, and you have come to appreciate and love that, but of course, maintain a healthy dose of respect and fear, too.
But there’s one thing you may think you know, that you really don’t. The ocean is much greater, much deeper, than we even give it credit for.
People often forget that oceans contain much more than the water you see just beneath the surface. There are depths beneath it, comprised of a staggering 95 percent of the Earth’s living space, and much of it remains entirely unexplored by humans. So while we snorkel and dive to get a better idea of what is underneath our dangling feet as we so casually swim to cool off and enjoy the natural essence of the ocean on our skin, what we see, and what we think we know, is merely scratching the surface.
To get a better idea of just how deep the oceans go, Xkcd.com created the illustration below, allowing you to see that much of the ocean doesn’t even get sunlight. Even scientists admit that much of what goes on down there is still a mystery, making this infographic that much more intriguing, and perhaps, a bit scarier, for your next dip in the ocean:
In fact, it’s so expensive to reach the deepest depths of the ocean that only the likes of Oscar-winning director James Cameron take it upon themselves to truly explore these underwater spaces rarely visited by humans.
Cameron, for instance, visited the Mariana Trench, which is the deepest place on Earth at 7 miles (11 km) below the surface of the Pacific Ocean. He did so in a mini submarine in 2012, becoming the second person to visit that area of the ocean.
While he didn’t see any sea monsters, he did explain that his experience was simply out of this world.
“There had to be a moment where I just stopped, and took it in, and said, ‘This is where I am; I’m at the bottom of the ocean, the deepest place on Earth. What does that mean?’ ” Cameron explained to reporters after spending three hours at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, nearly 7 miles down.
“I just sat there looking out the window, looking at this barren, desolate lunar plain, appreciating,” Cameron noted. “It’s really the sense of isolation, more than anything, realizing how tiny you are down in this big vast black unknown and unexplored place.”
It’s a beautiful reminder that, despite how comfortable, how all-knowing we feel in our everyday lives, there is so much of this great, big world yet to be discovered, yet to truly be felt or analyzed by humans.