Exploring the Oceans    

The Water PlanetOceans in MotionLife in the SeaScientist at SeaResources


An underwater explorer examines a giant clamPeople have always wanted to explore the sea, to look for sunken treasure, to salvage wrecks, to bring up marine products like pearls and sponges, or to simply examine the beautiful underwater world.

Oceanography is a branch of science that studies all aspects of the ocean's physical features and inhabitants. It is the study of anything about the oceans: the description of land surrounding them, the plants and animals that live in them, how the oceans affect humans, and how humans affect the oceans. Oceanography is not a separate science but encompasses many sciences, such as biology, chemistry, geology, physics and geography.

The scientists and explorers of earlier times could only guess what lay below the waves. Now, underwater instruments and machines can tell us. Some devices tell us about the water itself. Research ships lower bottles that fill with water at different levels in the sea; thermometers fixed to the bottles measure the temperature at these levels. Ships tow bathythermographs to record how underwater temperature and pressure change across an ocean. Complicated devices called bathysondes measure underwater saltiness, temperature pressure and the speed of underwater sounds. In order to learn how underwater currents flow, researchers use special buoys and floats that send back signals to the surface.

Underwater Exploration

The dark, cold depths of the ocean pose a huge challenge for underwater exploration but sophisticated sonar systems and manned submersibles developed since World War I allow the deep-sea floor to be observed first-hand by scientists.

Remote Sensing

Collecting information about an object or phenomenon from a distance is the essence of remote sensing. It combines sophisticated sensor technology with the processing capabilities of high-powered computers. The vast wealth of data derived from satellites show considerable environmental detail at regional and global scales.

Science Learning Network | email: sln@mos.org | © 1998 The Museum of Science