Looking at maps of the ocean on programs like Google Earth, you may think that we know all there is to know about the shape of the seafloor–it certainly looks that way from afar. But while we might have a general idea of the highs and lows of deep-sea topography, these impressive-looking maps are mostly built by a sophisticated system of “connect-the-dots.” The truth is that most of the area of the seafloor has no depth data at all. Without a better understanding of the nature of the seafloor, not to mention the countless ocean processes connected to it, it will be impossible for us to make informed and responsible decisions about managing and maintaining our planet. As the oceans cover most of the Earth’s surface, seafloor mapping is a key component of ocean–and planetary–exploration.
In an effort to gather this critical knowledge in time to make use of it, the Seabed 2030 project was launched by the Nippon Foundation and GEBCO with the goal of mapping 100% of Earth’s seafloor by 2030. While this task might seem daunting, it will be possible through global collaboration and a multitude of individual efforts. The wheels are already in motion, and the data gathered during the expeditions of Ocean Exploration Trust’s Nautilus while mapping in transit and over targeted areas plays an integral part in meeting these goals for our future.