Ocean and Coastal
Explore and discover the unknown
regions of the oceans.
Exploring the oceans has been
an important human goal for centuries. Yet, while we have spent
much of our history learning about what lies at the ocean's surface,
we still know relatively little about what lies below. In just
the past 50 years, we have discovered that the greatest mountain
chains and canyons on Earth exist beneath the sea. Only 20 years
ago, we discovered totally new chemosynthetic life forms that
exist around deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Considered by some
to be one of the most significant biological discoveries in the
latter half of this century, these organisms derive energy from
chemicals not the sun, revolutionizing theories of photosynthesis
as the basis of all life. These organisms have adapted to living
in a highly pressurized, sunless, super-heated environment, and
may provide insight into our understanding of the origins of
life on Earth and other planets.
Such discoveries demonstrate
that the deep ocean remains the last great frontier of our planet
for exploration and discovery. Although no one can predict what
exploration will yield, exploration and research have led to
discoveries that have changed our lives fundamentally and have
provided knowledge critical to sustainably managing our natural
- There is a lack of information
about many ocean ecosystems, including the ocean's deepest regions,
affecting our ability to manage them and to develop new uses
and potential products.
Only four manned submersibles in the world, none of them operated
by the U.S., are capable of descending to half the ocean's maximum
depth. The deepest-diving U.S. manned submersible currently operating
(the ALVIN) can reach only an estimated 63% of the ocean floor.
- Not enough effort is made
to bring the excitement of ocean exploration truly the last frontier
on Earth to the public and to popular media.
- Establish a national strategy
to expand exploration of the oceans, including more in-kind support
by federal agencies for private ocean exploration initiatives.
- Support exploratory research
in geographic areas, such as the deep-sea vent sites, and topical
areas, such as undiscovered deep-sea species.
- Invest in the development
of cutting-edge technologies and vehicles to observe and explore
the oceans from the surface to the seafloor.
- Develop ways to explore the
oceans remotely, including new observatories and sensors and
innovative uses of technologies.
For more information
On Earth Day 1999, private
and federal partners launched the historic Sustainable Seas Expedition
to explore and map the nation's 12 National Marine Sanctuaries,
providing the first comprehensive study of some of the organisms
and physical characteristics in these areas.