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Global quest to map world’s oceans by 2030

Jonathon Saul, May 28, 2018 7:26PM AP

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A Fugro autonomous underwater vehicle. media_cameraA Fugro autonomous underwater vehicle.


Reading level: orange

Ocean explorers, drones, ships and fishing boats are joining forces on a new quest* to map the world’s oceans.

The aim is to map the entire ocean floor by 2030.

It’s a big job. Only 7 per cent of the ocean deeper than 200m has been mapped. The other 93 per cent — more than 190 million square km — is a mystery.

Seabed 2030 project director Satinder Bindra said it is possible to meet the 2030 deadline and provide vital* information on everything from tsunami wave patterns to pollution, fishing movements, shipping navigation* and unknown mineral deposits.

“We know more about the surface of the Moon and Mars than our own backyard,” Mr Bindra said.

This undated handout picture released on February 21, 2018 by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and taken by Asher Flatt of Marine National Facility shows a faceless fish, a species of deep sea cusk with no-visible eyes and a mouth on the underside of its head, at a laboratory in Hobart. More than 100 rarely seen fish species were hauled up from a deep and cold abyss off Australia during a scientific voyage, researchers said on February 21, including a cousin of the "world's ugliest animal" Mr Blobby. / AFP PHOTO / CSIRO / Asher FLATT / -----EDITORS NOTE --- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / CSIRO / ASHER FLATT" - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - NO ARCHIVES media_cameraA faceless fish, one of the rarely seen species that live in the deep water of Earth’s oceans. Picture: AFP

“This in the 21st century is something that we are working to correct.”

“For too long now we have treated our own oceans as a forgotten frontier*.”

The reason we haven’t completed this project before is simple.

“It’s not so easy to map the ocean, because the water is in the way,” said Stockholm University’s Professor Martin Jakobsson in an interview with US research group Smithsonian Institution.

Space, said Professor Jakobsson, also seems a more exciting frontier to explore.

“We haven’t been able to bring the attention to our own Earth in the same way as Mars. It hasn’t been easy to rally* the whole world behind us,” he said.

Seabed 2030 is a partnership between Japan’s Nippon Foundation and GEBCO, a non-profit association of experts that is already involved in charting the ocean floor.

“There’s unanimity* within the scientific and the mapping community that a map is essential,” Mr Bindra said.

MV Fugro Equator *** Local Caption *** After 103 years since her loss, HMAS AE1 was located in waters off the Duke of York Island group in Papua New Guinea in December 2017.    The Royal Australian Navy and the Silentworld Foundation commissioned the most comprehensive and technologically capable search ever committed to finding AE1 and the 35 Australian, British and New Zealand men entombed within.    The team of maritime surveyors, marine archaeologists and naval historians scoured the search area with a multi-beam echo sounder and side-scan technology in an underwater drone flying 40 metres above the sea bed on pre-programmed 20 hour missions.    The data collected was analysed and a three-dimensional rendering of the underwater environment was produced before dropping a camera to confirm the find.    The search led by Find AE1 Limited, and was funded by the Royal Australian Navy and the Silentworld Foundation, with assistance from the Submarine Institute of Australia, the Australian National Maritime Museum, Fugro Survey and the Papua New Guinea Government. media_cameraMV Fugro, which has already contributed lots of data to the project. Picture: supplied

The project is supported by Dutch deep-sea energy explorer Fugro, which was involved in the search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which disappeared in 2014. Fugro has contributed* 65,000 square km of data. Ocean Infinity, which has taken up the search for MH370, is another company contributing to the 2030 initiative*.


  • Museums Victoria led a deep-sea expedition in May and June 2017 from Launceston, Tasmania, to Brisbane, Queensland, that explored depths of 4km. It found giant sea spiders, a blobfish, zombie worms, a herd of sea pigs, bioluminescent* sea stars, carnivorous sea sponges, tripodfish and many other bizarre creatures. It also rediscovered the faceless fish, which has no eyes and a mouth on the underside of its head.
  • Hoppers, worms, snails and sea cucumbers are the most common creatures in the deepest parts of the ocean.
  • The deepest part of the ocean is thought to be The Challenger Deep, in the Marianna Trench in the western Pacific Ocean. It is almost 11km deep.
  • Bottom water temperatures are between 1-4C.
  • A Swedish expedition in 1948 proved that there was life in the ocean deeper than 6km down.
LAUGHING ANIMALS media_cameraA blobfish, which lives in deep oceans. The recent Museums Victoria expedition found a blobfish. Picture: Caters News Agency


Sue reels in monster fish on holiday


quest: search

vital: essential, important

navigation: passage of ships

frontier: limit of what is known

rally: get everyone together

unanimity: agreement by everyone

contributed: added

initiative: take charge

bioluminescent: emitting of light by a living thing



1. How many square kilometres is still to be mapped?

2. What is the simple reason the ocean is difficult to map?

3. Name four things the Museums Victoria expedition found.

4. How deep is The Challenger Deep?

5. What temperature is the deepest ocean water?


The deep-sea creatures named in the article sound both interesting and mysterious. Based on their names, choose the three that sound the most interesting to you. Draw a sketch of what you predict each of them looks like, based on its name and your existing knowledge of sea creatures. Then find a picture of each one and draw a sketch of what it actually looks like.

Extension: Write a factual paragraph about each of your three deep-sea creatures.

Time: Allow 30 minutes

Curriculum links: English, Science


After reading the article, with a partner, highlight as many wow words or ambitious pieces of vocabulary that you can find in yellow. Discuss the meanings of these words and see if you can use them orally in another sentence.


Please do not use one-word answers. Explain what you enjoyed or found interesting about the article. Use lots of adjectives.

Extra Reading in geography