Considering that 70% of our planet is covered in water, it would seem logical that we would know more about our waters than other aspects of life here as well as elsewhere in our solar system.
However, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration we know more about the surface of our own moon than we do about what's at the bottom of our oceans. In fact, 12 people have walked on the surface of the moon while only one has come close to reaching the bottom of the Mariana Trench, which is the deepest point on our planet located just off the coast of Japan.
Due to the limited knowledge we have of our ocean floors, new species are constantly being discovered alongside revelations as to how life works here on our blue planet and the raw power of its watery depths.
The ocean is an amazing force of nature but, while it is often serene and peaceful, at times it can be harsh, unrelenting and utterly terrifying. Few people understand what these large bodies of water are truly capable of and often imagine them based only on what they have experienced from their summer vacations to the nearest beach. However, even at the shallow depths in which these shores lay claim, tragedy can strike.
Rip currents are one of the more familiar oceanic anomalies that plague average swimmers and beach-goers across the world. In some places, they can be worse than others but one of the factors that makes them so dangerous is how difficult they are to gauge. Even the most trained swimmers and surfers can never go into a rip current 100% sure they'll be able to escape its pull.
According to the United States Lifesaving Association, over 100 people drown every year in incidents related to rip tides and currents while approximately 80% of rescues performed by lifeguards account to such natural forces. These invisible vices are often overlooked by parents, children and the overconfident resulting, more often than not, in injury or worse.
Although the ramifications of misjudging rip currents can be dangerous, far beyond our shores lie even more malevolent and wild wonders of the sea that may seem unfathomable to some. One such occurrence, though rare, is that of rogue waves which are also known as killer waves and for good reason.
Whereas currents and tides can be predicted, rogue waves are random, unforeseen, and, at times, inescapable. Essentially, rogue waves are those that far exceed the normal wave height for a given time, place, and situation. Modern science has been unable to decipher why exactly these waves happen although it appears that there is no direct cause. Thus, rogue waves can spring up at any time, at any location and if a ship or vessel is ill-prepared, damage and loss will follow.
Similarly, rough seas due to high winds and heavy rain can also become a sailor's bane. Although ever more predictable than in the past, these storms can still be the end of many. Across the world, stories abound of marvelous yet humbling storms.
Imagine sailing aboard a large cargo ship during a massive squall and then, as the swells rise far above the deck, and thanks to a single flash of lighting, you see a whale in the wave above you. These are the stories that sailors tell and that science can confirm. Although most of these waves occur in the wake of hurricanes, they still amaze and shock many. However, despite their sheer power life can still occur in the form of lifeforms that lie beneath the waves.
Even though we humans have just now begun to adapt to the terrors of the seas, there live entire ecosystems that thrive and abide in the Earth's unruly oceans. Even though we know more now than ever we still have yet to scratch the surface of our planet's vast marine life. When most people think of the dark depths of the ocean they cite sharks, eels and even anglerfish as the apex of deep-sea terror. However, many are unaware of the numerous anomalies, mysteries, and paradoxes of the ocean that sometimes even challenge what we know about life here on Earth and across our solar system as a whole.
One of the most intriguing mysteries of the deep is that of abyssal gigantism. Although it is not directly known what causes this phenomenon, abyssal gigantism, as its name would imply, is when creatures living at extreme depths, such as oceanic trenches, grow to immense sizes far beyond the norm. Creatures such as the colossal squid and giant isopod are the result of this phenomenon.
However, in 2011 a creature was spotted off the Gulf of Mexico that is believed to be the basis for many of the sea serpent tales of old.
This creature was a much larger version of the common oarfish. Although oarfish are already known for their large size, the one recorded was estimated to be over 56 feet long. Its massive length paired with the dragon-like features that all oarfish possess now warrant further investigation into the validity of claims of sea monsters across the globe. It could very well be that ancient tales of unstoppable creatures from the deep have some basis in fact.
Such findings, paired with the fact that less than 5% of our ocean floor has been explored, lead many to speculate as to just what lies in the murky depths of our waters as well as the caution we should take when traversing it.
Our oceans are massive and are, in many ways, far beyond our comprehension. Despite our global population and the amount of land that covers the globe, it is all still infinitesimally small when compared to the waters that cover our world and the varied life that occupies such space.
For a bit of perspective, Point Nemo, which is a point in the ocean furthest from any body of land (approximately 1,700 miles in all directions), would be closer to the International Space Station, if it was positioned directly above it, than to any other continent, island or seafloor known to man. Truly, the ocean is tantalizingly unimaginable and we have yet to even scratch the surface of what secrets it holds.