Feb 27, 2020

The Ocean is Stranger than Outer Space

Omar Abubakar

id you know that we currently have 409,543 named species in our ocean? That might seem impressive until you consider that the deep sea is home to possibly multiples of that number of undiscovered species. A vast amount of mysterious creatures remain unknown, probably because of a lack of adequate deep-sea explorations!

You might often hear that we know more about our space than we do of our seas. Although this is not easy to confirm, it is true that while we have been exploring the oceans longer than outer space, we have recorded more success in the latter.

The sea is a vast mystery. Beyond the surface, we are still mostly unaware of what’s in there. This isn’t so strange since there are a lot of factors that make the seas a challenging place to study. Yes, there are people committed to learning our oceans, but it’s challenging to work in the deep waters. Exploring our seas fully could take a long time! Here are five reasons we know more about outer space than we do our oceans.


Most of Our Ocean Technology is Relatively New

Satellites give us an excellent overview of the seas. They are useful for measuring temperature, sea level winds, ocean color, and the waves. Also, the entire seafloor has been mapped by imaging equipment. This could give you the illusion that we should know all about the ocean by now. But don’t be too quick to jump to this conclusion.

For one, satellites cannot give us detailed information about the oceans yet. Again, the imaging equipment used on the seafloor can only measure up to 5 kilometers. What this means is anything more substantial than 5 kilometers can not be captured or documented. Additionally, imaging equipment can easily miss small surface areas.

Another point is that the technology used to chart ocean floors is mostly new. Technology like advanced sonar, scientific buoys, ocean satellites, and deep-sea submarines have only been part of ocean exploration for about 50 years in total. As technology improves, scientists will learn to map the floors and document better a higher percentage of our oceans, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Moreover, most of the surveys of the sea happen with technology alone. This means that for most purposes, humans have not gotten access to studying or exploring the ocean floor themselves. And while technology is great, some things may very well remain undocumented.


Our Oceans Are Vast

Oceans cover 71% of the earth’s surface. Of that 71%, we have explored only 5%. This means that a whopping 95% of the oceans remain uncharted. Also, 90% of livable space is in our oceans. Therefore about 65% of the human-earth remains unexplored! You’d think that we would be interested in understanding our home planet more, and we are. But the oceans are vast!


There’s a lot to cover when it comes to ocean exploration. For instance, the deepest point of the ocean is 7 miles deep! This place is called the Mariana trench located near Guam. These dark areas below the surface are the parts that remain unexplored.

Because of how vast the ocean is, it will take a lot of resources, workforce, and time to explore its full depth — assuming we had the technology to accomplish such a feat.

We Can’t See Below The Ocean’s Surface

The primary factor that makes space exploration different from ocean exploration is how much of either one we can see. In space exploration, scientists can see everything within view when they make use of telescopes, but the ocean is a different matter altogether.


We can’t see very far into the ocean. Light doesn’t permeate deep into the waters. At 200 meters – the twilight zone – sunlight starts to thin out. Moreover, sunlight cannot penetrate the ocean once you get to the midnight zone, which is only about 1000 meters deep. Even satellite imaging cannot yet see into the midnight zone.

The declining light supply means that we cannot go down there and investigate with our own eyes. That makes it considerably more challenging to explore the ocean ourselves.

There’s Intense Pressure in the Ocean

Even if we could see in the twilight and midnight zones, there is still the not-so-small matter of pressure. Deep-sea exploration is subject to how much given technology can withstand pressure levels.

Pressure in the deepest part of the ocean is like having 50 jumbo jets on top of you all at once! That’s a lot of demand for the human body, and for most technology too. Apart from the gravity pull, there’s also the matter of the cold. The deep ocean is usually so cold that it’s even difficult for life to flourish there. For instance, a particular fish – called the Patagonian Toothfish – which lives about 4000 meters ocean deep, has antifreeze proteins in its tissues so it can survive.

Ocean’s deep

Space has More Mystical Glamour Than Oceans

Since 1969, 12 people have been to outer space, which is four times more than the three people that have been to the depths of the sea. In that time, we have gotten detailed imaging of the Moon, Mars, and Mercury. Currently, organizations like NASA and SpaceX are making plans to put life on Mars.

Evidently, outer space holds a certain appeal that the ocean doesn’t seem to have. Space travel appears mystical as if it contains something beyond our reach. This probably explains why it is so promoted. Several movies have been made about aliens, space travel, and life on another planet. For example, franchises like Star Wars and the Avengers promote outer space living. Maybe if we had an ocean-based franchise?


It is not hard to see why space travel has been attempted more often and holds some mystical glamour that ocean explorations don’t. We need to pay more attention to our waters, and as technology evolves, hopefully, we will!