Skip to Main Content

Deep Sea: About

Deep Sea

What is the Deep Sea?

Below the ocean’s surface is a mysterious world that accounts for over 95 percent of Earth’s living space—it could hide 20 Washington Monuments stacked on top of each other. But the deep sea remains largely unexplored. As you dive down through this vast living space you notice that light starts fading rapidly. By 650 feet (200 m) all the light is gone to our eyes and the temperature has dropped dramatically. Dive deeper and the weight of the water above continues to accumulate to a massive crushing force. Any light still filtering down has diminished to appear completely black, leaving only animals and bacteria to produce the light found here. By 13,000 feet (4,000 meters), the temperature hovers just below the temperature of your refridgerator.  At this depth, we’ve reached the average depth of the deep-sea floor, a place that may start to get a little muddy. The further we dive down from the surface, the less new food is available, making the fight to survive that much more challenging.  Despite these harsh conditions, there is life—an astounding variety of creatures that will boggle your mind. You can’t dive to the deep ocean on your own, of course, but scientists have a variety of sophisticated technologies to explore this vast frontier. Continue reading from Smithsonian

The Mariana Trench

If you want to explore the depths of the ocean, you may want to go to the deepest part: the Mariana Trench. This trench has a maximum depth of 11 kilometers (around 7 miles) and is almost five times wider than it is deep. The Mariana Trench is deeper than Mount Everest is tall and anything living there has to survive the cold water and extremely high pressure. Continue reading from Smithsonian

Importance to the Ecosystem

The Deep Sea plays a major role in climate change mitigation. By storing a large part of the CO2 produced by human activities and by absorbing the heat accumulated by greenhouse effect, the Deep Sea slows down the warming of surface waters and land. Thanks to this immense mass of water, climate change is still “bearable” for most species on Earth.

In addition, Deep Sea ecosystems capture huge quantities of carbon. For instance, on the continental shelf, microorganisms play a major role in sustainable storage of carbon produced by phytoplankton, but are also filters for methane formed by this fossilized matter. By using methane as energy, these microorganisms transform this greenhouse gas, which is much more powerful than CO2, into minerals. This process prevents greenhouse gases from resurfacing and accelerating climate change.  Continue reading from Ocean & Climate Platform


Learn More About Marine Ecosystems: From the Collection

Link to Below the Edge of Darkness by Edith Widder PhD in the catalog
Link to The brilliant abyss : exploring the majestic hidden life of the deep ocean and the looming threat that imperils it by Helen Scales in the catalog
Link to Deep blue home : an intimate ecology of our wild ocean by Julia Whitty in the catalog
Link to The Eternal Darkness by Robert Ballard
Link to The Ocean of Life by Callum Roberts in the catalog
Link to Waters of the world : the story of the scientists who unraveled the mysteries of our oceans, atmosphere, and ice sheets and made the planet whole by Sarah Dry in the catalog
Link to The sea trilogy : Under the sea-wind ; The sea around us ; The edge of the sea by Rachel Carson in the catalog
Link to Ocean : the definitive visual guide by the American Museum of Natural History in the catalog
Link to Ocean anatomy : the curious parts & pieces of the world under the sea by Julia Rothman in the catalog
America's marine sanctuaries: a photographic exploration by US National Marine Sanctuary Foundation in the catalog
Link to Systems Biology of Marine Ecosystems by Anjanette Tadena in the catalog
Link to Vanishing sands : losing beaches to mining by Orrin H. Pilkey in the catalog
Link to The Atlas of Disappearing Places: Our Coasts and Oceans in the Climate Crisis by Christina Conklin in the catalog

Link to Marine Ecosystems Resource Guide Series Homepage