I have been fascinated by the ocean since my parents first planted me on a beach towel along the sandy expanse of the Atlantic Ocean when I was barely old enough to care. Like fire, the ocean is always the same but somehow is constantly changing. It has a mesmerizing quality of ever-flowing motion and constant yet subtle sounds; nature’s original white-noise machine.
I’ve spent many summer days working on my tan, surfing, or just cooling off while being pushed around by the waves, and for most of that time the ocean has just been salt-water recreation, always there for my enjoyment.
But the further we get into the Ocean Decade and the deeper our study and knowledge of the ocean becomes, the more we know it’s not just a huge body of water for us to splash in and ships to traverse. It is the reason life as we know it exists.
Our June hydrographic issue is always one of my favorites each year. Right now, there are millions of people around the world (and soon those of us near me in the American Northeast will join them) enjoying the recreational aspects of the ocean. I can assure you, very few of them are considering its significance.
Luckily, some highly qualified professionals are. The more they understand the intricacies of the ocean, the further along we get in mapping the ocean floor, the more we learn about the ocean, the better life will be. The gigantic task has been overlooked in the past because for millennia the ocean has been at humanity’s disposal. It is the Earth’s workhorse, and workhorses tend to be taken for granted.
But now, the ocean is front and center among scientists and geospatial professionals who are analyzing it from every angle—from satellite images, surface vehicles, and underwater drones. All of us who will be sunning ourselves on an ocean beach this year probably won’t notice, but the work going on will keep the ocean healthy, so we don’t have to worry about it.