10,000 Leagues

I always get a little bit scared when I swim out deep in the ocean. I never know what is lurking beneath in the dark. Jaws was definitely a big factor in making me scared of the ocean. I watched it when I was a kid and the setting was off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, right near my home on Cape Cod. Needless to say I spent a little while in the shallows after seeing that. I think the reason it’s frightening is because you can’t see very far into it. If you go underwater and open your eyes to look around there is a vast expanse of openness that your eyes can barely penetrate. There could be any sort of marine behemoth swimming toward you just out of sight.

The same reason that the deep sea is frightening is the reason I am so interested in it. There is more known about the moon’s surface than there is about the deep sea, and it is so difficult to navigate and study that progress is slow.  Researchers at Harvard have done deep sea dredges that continue to produce findings all over the Atlantic ocean, covering hundreds of thousands of miles. They are constantly finding new species of aquatic life even deeper than they thought was possible for life to exist. The difficulty for studying these creatures comes from not being able to observe them in their natural habitats. Catching the creatures and bringing them up to the ship is a start in understanding them, but viewing them in the context of their surroundings is much more helpful to researchers.

A truly amazing discovery was that of biological communities based entirely off of chemical energy from submarine vents. The lack of sunlight is no problem for these creatures of the deep. The biomass around these deep ocean vents has been said to rival that of tropical rainforests. The strangeness of the creatures that live down in those depths is unfathomable. The fact that there is life in these places where there is no sunlight makes me think that life could exist in a huge variety of places, including other planets. The creatures from the deep are as strange, or even stranger, than aliens would be to us. So now you know why the ocean is a bit scary for me, and I’m sorry if I made it the same way for you.

Written by: Erik Alvarenga

 

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