Unfathomable Treasures

‘Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear.’

Thomas Gray; Elegy in a Country Churchyard, 1751

The Waterfront Charters CapeRADD collaborative cruise on the 12th of June to celebrate World Ocean Day is open for bookings, and promises to be one of our most important cruises. CapeRADD, who are one of our ‘Add-on’ option partners, is a team of marine biologists, divers and ocean lovers who are focussed on educating a largely uncaring world on the importance of our oceans to life itself. In our last blog we highlighted some of the aspects where the global ocean is all-important to the survival of all species on the planet. (Except perhaps for the bacteria and giant tube worms, clams, limpets and shrimp that live in boiling hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the deepest ocean trenches: 400 degrees Celsius at pressures that would crush humans to pulp: eight tons per square inch – who knows, these hardy creatures may be the basis for all future life on Earth should we ignore all the warnings. They have about five billion years left to evolve into the overlords of our planet. Global warming would be a necessity for these guys.)

The World Ocean Day Cruise is a two hour combination of the joy of being aboard a luxury catamaran and the wonder of seeing the underwater world from the perspective of a diver, except you don’t have to don a wetsuit and scuba gear for the experience: CapeRADD’s underwater video system will beam the views aboard Enigma, and the experts will point out all the salient facts behind the scenes – the good, the bad and the ugly of the world we are destroying with pollution, global warming and over-fishing. Before we give you a taste of some of the amazing facts about our oceans that you may be unaware of, a reminder to book for this adventure on the 12th. For all those who appreciate our oceans, for those who want to learn more and those who want to make a difference, it’s a must.

The oceans. Or more correctly, ocean; as we have pointed out before it’s all interconnected, and even though some connections may be rather thin (the entrances to the Mediterranean and through to the Black Sea are examples), they all join up, The Mediterranean, of course, used to be a landlocked valley as recently as five million years ago. Known as the Zanclean Flood, it is theorised that when the sea broke through at Gibraltar, it took a mere two years to fill the basin that lay between Africa and Europe. There’s a sight to put on your Time Travel must-do list. The Black Sea at the far end of the Mediterranean was a freshwater lake at that time, but eventually the barrier was broken – a mere 7500 years ago – by the ocean at the Bosporus, and the ocean poured into the lake, which lay at a lower level. The Black Lake became the Black Sea in an equally cataclysmic fashion to the Mediterranean.

95% of life on the planet is aquatic, although we humans are doing our best to even the odds. Seeing just the surface of the ocean gives us a false impression of the magnitude of water that contains these creatures, although those of us who might have flown across the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans and not slept all the way may disagree. But it’s a fact that we have better maps of the surface of Mars than we do of our ocean beds. Talk mountain ranges and we immediately think of the Pyrenees, the Andes or the Alps – but what of the Mid-Oceanic Ridge? It’s ten times longer than the Andes at 65 000km: now there’s a hike to consider. Take lots of oxygen bottles. While we are talking distances, that flight you take across the Pacific is five times the diameter of the moon. The Pacific also gets pretty deep: the Mariana Trench is a few metres shy of eleven kilometres from surface to bed. Not a reef to be snorkelled on, we suggest. And combining another moon fact with an ocean fact, more people have walked on the moon than have been down to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, more proof (if any was needed) that the world below the surface of the ocean has not received the attention it deserves. We have machines and drones on Mars, space probes that have exited the solar system and understand the nature of particle physics, but the ocean remains largely an unexplored mystery.

Question: where is the world’s highest waterfall? If you said the 975 metre Angel Falls in Venezuela you aren’t focussing on the point we are trying to make. It’s actually in the ocean, which may seem counterintuitive: the Denmark Strait Cataract, at a point between Green land and Iceland. What?, you may well ask. It’s caused by the cold water from the east in the Strait running beneath the warmer water from the west, and plunging 3 500 metre directly downwards, at a rate of 3.5 million cubic metres per second, or a flow 50 000 larger than Niagara Falls. On that note, the bottom of all the oceans are filled with lakes and rivers too. With denser water flowing downwards into depressions, the seabed is carved into shapes exactly as it is in our landlocked world. There are even waves on these lakes, but are unlikely to see surfers any time soon.

Oh, and did you know that there is enough gold in the ocean to give each person of Earth around three kilograms of the metal? Don’t rush down to the beach to look for it, mind you: separating the gold from the seawater has been tried and proved to be more costly (at the moment, anyway) than the value of the recovered gold.

There is so much more; we could fill volumes with interesting commentary, like the fact that the biggest waves in the ocean are below the surface, and can be 200 metres tall, travelling for thousands of miles, and the fact that 90% of ocean life has yet to be discovered and studied is probably the most concerning; we are likely to kill off millions of species before we even know they exist. All the more reason to put ourselves behind World Ocean Day, and even more reason to join Waterfront Charters and CapeRADD on the 12th of June as we explore this amazing, yet mysterious, part of our world.