Although new species are being discovered on a seemingly daily basis, the bottom of the ocean is still largely uncharted territory for humans. The extreme temperatures and intense levels of pressure make it impossible for humans to safely explore the deep ocean floor, and the equipment necessary to make the journey safely is costly and cumbersome. Oddly enough, scientists have been able to explore even deeper than the ocean floor for half a century. How?
Deep Beneath The Ocean’s Crust
Scientists have been using highly equipped ships to drill into the bottom of the ocean. This is not done in an effort to find oil, but it is done in an effort to find new information about Earth.
A humongous drill is attached to the side of a boat. Sound waves are sent from the boat to the bottom of the ocean so that scientists can tell where the best place to drop the drill is. Studying the sound waves makes it possible to drill in a clear spot in the ocean rather than sending a drill down blindly to break up vegetation or coral reefs.
A Tedious Process
After the right place to drop the drill is determined, the process is far from over. When the drill reaches the bottom of the ocean, it can only drill for a limited amount of time before the tough rock it’s drilling through makes the tip of the drill blunt.
At that point, the drill has to be retracted back up to the boat at the surface of the ocean. The boat’s crew has to replace the drill bit with a new one. Next, a specialized tool is used to put the enormous drill back in the right place. This time-consuming process has to be repeated over and over again in one ocean drilling expedition, but the results are worth the headache.
A Natural Museum Under The Ocean
On land, huge rock structures are a key to understanding the past. Fossils trapped in the rock reveal what kind of animals used to live in that area. Rock fossils are the way scientist know that the continents used to be one supercontinent called Pangea. Ancient fossils on the western coast of Africa are identical to those on the eastern coast of South America.
There is strong evidence that some of the world’s oceans used to be land and that some terrain that is currently land used to be an ocean. For example, many scientists agree that the Sahara Desert was a vast ocean at one time. So, fossils and patterns within the rock structures underneath the ocean can give lots of clues about land animals millions of years ago.
What Has Been Found?
In the last 50 years, ocean drilling has been the cause of many scientific discoveries. This is how we know what ancient marine life looked like.
These clues in the crust are also how we know that dinosaurs died suddenly. The ocean is full of knowledge. Who knows what we’ll discover next?