Deep Sea

The deep sea, or deep layer, is the lowest layer in the ocean, existing below the thermocline and above the seabed, at a depth of 1000 fathoms (1800 m) or more. Little or no light penetrates this part of the ocean and most of the organisms that live there rely for subsistence on falling organic matter produced in the photic zone. For this reason scientists once assumed that life would be sparse in the deep ocean but virtually every probe has revealed that, on the contrary, life is abundant in the deep ocean.

From the time of Pliny until the expedition in the ship Challenger between 1872 and 1876 to prove Pliny wrong; its deep-sea dredges and trawls brought up living things from all depths that could be reached. Yet even in the twentieth century scientists continued to imagine that life at great depth was insubstantial, or somehow inconsequential. The eternal dark, the almost inconceivable pressure, and the extreme cold that exist below one thousand meters were, they thought, so forbidding as to have all but extinguished life. The reverse is in fact true....(Below 200 meters) lies the largest habitat on earth.

In 1960 the Bathyscaphe Trieste descended to the bottom of the Mariana Trench near Guam, at 35,798 feet or 6.77 miles (10,911 meters), the deepest spot in any ocean. If Mount Everest were submerged there, its peak would be more than a mile beneath the surface. At this great depth a small flounder-like fish was seen moving away from the bathyscaphe's spotlight. The Trieste was retired and for a while the Japanese remote-operated vehicle (ROV) Kaikō was the only vessel capable of reaching this depth. It was lost at sea in 2003. In May and June 2009, the hybrid-ROV (HROV) Nereus returned to the Challenger Deep for a series of three dives to depths exceeding 10900 meters.

It has been suggested that more is known about the Moon than the deepest parts of the ocean. Until the late 1970s little was known about the extent of life on the deep ocean floor but the discovery of thriving colonies of shrimps and other organisms around hydrothermal vents changed that. Before the discovery of the undersea vents, it had been accepted that almost all life on earth obtained its energy (one way or another) from the sun. The new discoveries revealed groups of creatures that obtained nutrients and energy directly from thermal sources and chemical reactions associated with changes to mineral deposits. These organisms thrive in completely lightless and anaerobic environments, in highly saline water that may reach 300 °F (150 °C), drawing their sustenance from hydrogen sulfide, which is highly toxic to almost all terrestrial life. The revolutionary discovery that life can exist under these extreme conditions changed opinions about the chances of there being life elsewhere in the universe. Scientists now speculate that Europa, one of Jupiter's moons, may be able to support life beneath its icy surface, where there is evidence of a global ocean of liquid water.

Read more about Deep Sea:  Biology, Exploration

Famous quotes containing the words deep and/or sea:

    It is this deep blankness is the real thing strange.
    The more things happen to you the more you can’t
    Tell or remember even what they were.
    William Empson (1906–1984)

    As the shade went up
    And the ambulance came crashing through the dust
    Of the new day, the moon and the sun and the stars,
    And the iceberg slowly sank
    In the volcano and the sea ran far away
    Yellow over the hot sand, green as the green trees.
    John Ashbery (b. 1927)