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Introduction to the Ocean Floor



Fig. 7.1. A US Navy oceanographic survey ship using a multi-beam wide-angle sonar system to map the ocean floor

Image courtesy of US Navy, Wikipedia Commons

The ocean floor covers more than 70 percent of the planet’s surface. Like dry land, the ocean floor has various features including flat plains, sharp mountains, and rugged canyons (Fig. 7.1). However, the lowest point in the world ocean is much deeper than the highest point on land. The ocean floor is continually being formed and destroyed. To understand the ocean floor and its diverse features, it is important to learn about the formation of the earth and its geological history.


Ocean Literacy Principles

Principle 1: The earth has one big ocean with many features.

Ocean Literacy Fundamental Concept: An ocean basin’s size, shape and features (such as islands, trenches, mid-ocean ridges, rift valleys) vary due to the movement of Earth’s lithospheric plates. Earth’s highest peaks, deepest valleys and flattest vast plains are all in the ocean. (OLP 1b)


To build an understanding of the shapes and features of the ocean, it is important to understand plate tectonics and the subduction and renewal of the oceanic crusts.


These concepts will be explored in this unit through the following activities and investigations:


Principle 7: The ocean is largely unexplored.

Ocean Literacy Fundamental Concept: New technologies, sensors and tools are expanding our ability to explore the ocean. Ocean scientists are relying more and more on satellites, drifters, buoys, subsea observatories and unmanned submersibles. (OLP 7d)


In order to build an understanding that the seafloor and oceanic crust are one of largest and least explored features of the ocean and the earth, it is important to understand the history and challenges that have been faced by deep sea exploration.


These concepts will be explored in this unit through the following activities and investigations:


Representative Image
Exploring Our Fluid Earth, a product of the Curriculum Research & Development Group (CRDG), College of Education. University of Hawaii, 2011. This document may be freely reproduced and distributed for non-profit educational purposes.