30 Most Fascinating Facts About the Ocean
Every living being on this planet depends on the ocean in one way or another. Yet most of the ocean remains an unexplored mystery.
What little we do know about it, however, is absolutely fascinating. There are animals that should only exist in sci-fi novels and places so deep only a handful of people have ever visited them.
It's time to appreciate the wonderful deep blue sea even more. These are the 30 most incredible facts about the ocean.
The Ocean Covers Most of the Earth
A staggering 70.8 percent of the Earth's surface is covered by the ocean.
This means that the entirety of human civilization populates a fairly small part of the planet.
Most Life on Earth Lives in the Ocean
It often feels like humans have taken over the entire planet. And while this may be true for land, in the grand scheme of things, ocean life actually dominates.
About 95 percent of all life on Earth lives in the ocean. Thankfully, we haven't figured out how to live underwater yet.
But our lifestyle still is, directly and indirectly, threatening sea species.
The Antarctic Ice Sheet Is Larger Than the U.S.
The entire U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii, measures 3.797 million square miles.
The Antarctic ice sheet, which was formed during the last Ice Age, is 5.4 million square miles. The sheet makes up the entire continent of Antarctica.
Translation: It's absolutely gigantic.
The Pacific Ocean Is Wider Than the Moon
Because it usually gets cut in half in 2-D maps, we usually don't get a visual representation of just how gigantic the Pacific Ocean is.
This body of water takes up about a third of the world's surface area.
At its widest point, it's wider than the moon itself.
Most of the Ocean Remains Unexplored
Mostly because of its deepness, scientists calculate that only about 5 percent of the ocean has been explored.
Since the ocean is almost 71 percent of the world's surface, this means we haven't explored the vast majority of the planet.
And Many Species Remain Undiscovered
It's obviously impossible to know exactly how many species we haven't discovered yet. But given how little we have been able to explore of the ocean, scientists estimate that there are millions of species out there we still don't know about.
This theory is backed up by the fact that we are constantly discovering new ocean species.
If You Go Deep Enough, You Won't Be Able to See Some Colors
The deeper you go into the ocean, the less light that can filter through. Past 32.8 feet (10 meters), your eyes can't see red or yellow anymore.
If you were to get a cut, your blood would look dark green.
At Certain Depths, You Begin to Feel Drunk
At 100 feet (30 meters), divers experience nitrogen narcosis, which is a drunk-like state caused by gases at high pressure.
Also called "the martini effect," this condition can be dangerous for inexperienced divers, but is easily treated by simply swimming up to more shallow water.
Sharks Aren't Really That Dangerous
There are about 500 species of shark. Of those, only 36 are considered potentially dangerous for humans. Many rarely, if ever, encounter a human being.
This means you probably shouldn't let Steven Spielberg convince you sharks are that big of a threat.
Unless you're somewhere with bull sharks. That's one species you want to avoid.
The Ocean Gives Us Oxygen
We all know that trees make oxygen, which is why reforestation campaigns are so important. But not everyone is aware that half of the oxygen we breathe actually comes from the ocean.
So no matter how far you are from the sea, your life literally depends on it.
Sound Travels Faster In Water
Sound travels about four times faster in water than in air. Scientific American explains that the reason for this is that water particles are denser and thus carry sound at faster speeds.
This also means that sound can travel longer distances, which is why you can hear whale calls from thousands of miles away.
This may be counterintuitive because we can't hear well underwater. This is simply because our ears evolved to pick up sounds carried by air.
Earth's Lowest Point Measures More Than Mount Everest
Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench is 36,201 feet (11,034 meters) deep. By comparison, Mount Everest is 29,032 feet (8,849 meters) tall.
This means that you can fit all of Everest in the trench and still have around 7,169 feet (2,185 meters) left to go.
That's about 1.36 miles.
Only 22 People Have Been to Challenger Deep
Because of the extreme pressure and depth of Challenger Deep, only 22 people in the world have ever touched the true bottom of the ocean.
James Cameron, the director of hit films like "Titanic" and "Avatar," is one of them.
You Can Find Plastic in the Deepest Part of the Ocean
When James Cameron spent four hours deep within the Mariana Trench in 2012, he found many things. Among them were deep-sea creatures, candy wrappers and a plastic bag.
This means that human-caused plastic pollution has reached the most remote parts of the planet.
Another reason to cut down on plastic consumption.
There Are Underwater Lakes and Rivers
Sea creatures like to take lake vacations too.
When salt water concentrates on the ocean floor, it can corrode it and make it denser, causing it to collapse and form lakes and rivers underneath the ocean.
These formations, often called brine pools, can have their own shores and even their own currents and waves.
Underwater Volcanoes Exist
Not all volcanoes are tall enough to peep through the surface of the ocean. Like in Disney's adorable short film, "Lava," some active volcanoes are completely submerged underwater. In fact, 75 percent of volcanic activity happens inside the ocean.
Like their counterparts above the surface, underwater volcanoes erupt, so lava erupts and spills straight into the water. The phenomenon is a visual feast.
Underwater Hot Springs Can Reach 750 Degrees Fahrenheit
The activity from underwater volcanoes sometimes feeds hydrothermal vents, which are like underwater hot springs that release hot fluid into the ocean. Water coming from these vents can reach 750 degrees Fahrenheit.
These formations host a variety of unique marine life that is just beginning to be studied.
There Are Underwater Waterfalls, Too
This may be a difficult concept to wrap your head around, but there are actually waterfalls within the ocean.
They usually occur over underwater cataracts in places where two currents of water with differing temperatures or density meet. This causes one current to drop quickly beneath the other, forming a waterfall within the water.
Places where this phenomenon happens include the Strait of Gibraltar Cataract, the Ceara Cataract and the Denmark Strait.
The Tallest Waterfall in the World Is Underwater
It's the underwater waterfall in the Denmark Strait.
Colder and warmer currents going in opposite directions meet at this straight, causing the colder, denser water to sink beneath the warmer one. When this happens at a place where there's a drop in the ocean floor, the water is pushed at incredible speeds down, creating a waterfall.
At the Denmark Strait cataract, water drops from 2,000 feet to 10,000 feet below the surface. The waterfall is around 11,500 feet (3,505.2 meters) high. This is much taller than the tallest waterfall on land, Angel Falls, which measures 3,212 feet (979 meters).
The Longest Mountain Range Is Underwater
The Mid-Ocean Ridge is 40,390 miles long, making it the longest mountain range on the planet. Sadly, most people don't even know it exists, probably because it is almost completely submerged.
If you want an above-the-surface comparison, the longest mountain range on land are the majestic Andes, which only measure 4,300 miles long. Ten times shorter than the Mid-Ocean Range, the Andes cross almost the entire South American continent, from Argentina in the south to Venezuela in the north.
Most Islands Are Located in the Pacific
There are around 25,000 islands in the Pacific Ocean. This is more than all the islands of all the other oceans combined.
The islands are scattered throughout the ocean, but most are located in the Southern Hemisphere.
The Pacific Ocean Is the Largest Landfill on Earth
It's not that someone made an official landfill in the ocean. It's just that humans have a habit of using the ocean as a dumping ground for their trash.
Because of the way currents work, a lot of the trash thrown into the ocean has ended up in gyres, or a large system of ocean currents. The most famous of them is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The patch is estimated to be about two times the size of Texas.
This doesn't mean that if you're crossing the Pacific Ocean, you'll find yourself in a sea of trash. Most of the waste in the patch is either underneath the surface in the form of fishing gear or broken down into microplastics. You'll still find visible trash, but the vast majority of it is not immediately visible.
Blue Whales Are the Largest Animals in the World
There simply wouldn't be enough space on land for an animal as gigantic as the blue whale. The mammal can reach 98 feet in length. The largest land animal, the elephant, usually reaches about 10 feet in height.
Blue whales are so unfathomably large that the heart of a full-grown one can measure the same as a small car. They also weigh an average of 400,000 pounds, or about 33 elephants combined.
The Largest Blue Whale Was Taller Than the Lincoln Memorial
If you have ever visited the capital of the United States, chances are that you have stopped by the Lincoln Memorial.
The next time you visit, remember that the largest blue whale ever recorded was 108 feet (33 meters).
That's nine feet taller than the Lincoln Memorial.
Corals Are Animals, Not Plants
Despite their appearance, coral are not underwater flora, but invertebrate animals. They usually live in colonies, which is what we call coral reefs.
Corals even "hunt," using their arms to catch food and bring it into their mouths. Think about that next time you're snorkeling and try to step on a coral.
Many Species Rely on Corals
Corals are like cool neighbors that make everyone's life better.
They are known as the nurseries of the oceans because many species spend their youth in reefs, somewhat protected from large predators. This allows for populations to mature and replenish, thus keeping ocean life in balance.
But besides this, these awesomely weird animals act as a home for about 25 percent of all marine species. (At least the ones we know of).
Corals Are Similar to Human Bone
The chemistry of corals is similar to that of the human bone. So much so that the animal has actually been used in bone grafting surgeries.
Yes, this means that they are people out there with a little bit of coral in their bones.
The Ocean Has Ghosts
Or at least a ghostly snailfish. This elusive, almost impossible-to-find fish, holds the record for deepest living fish ever found.
It was recorded at around 26,715 feet (8,143 meters) deep.
The Deepest Free Dive Was 702 Feet
Free diving consists of plunging into the ocean and reaching the farthest depth possible without any breathing equipment.
Herbert Nitsch holds the record with a dive of 702 feet (214 meters). To put this into perspective, the Washington Monument is 500 feet (152.4 meters) tall.
In his last competitive dive, Nitsch suffered multiple strokes due to decompression sickness. This left him with balance issues but, somewhat happily, he only experiences them on land, not in the water. He continues to free dive for fun, for which we strongly admire him.
There Are Millions of Ships Underwater
Shipwrecks have happened as long as people have been sailing. And there are currently an estimated three million wrecked ships in the ocean.
Many of them carried gold or treasures. Although some attempts have been made at recovering these treasures, the cost and difficulty of the endeavors have proven to be more than their potential gain.