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The Endless Voyage

Country: Canada
Added: 2006
Category: Engineering Technology
Abstract: If we didn't have water in large quantities on the surface of the Earth, with its moderating temperature capabilities, we wouldn't be able to have life as we know it. In "The Endless Voyage", oceangraphers attempt to discover the wealth of animal and plant life that exists in our beautiful oceans. They would determine the role ocean plays in the formation of life on Earth and its influence on the climate system.

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    The Endless Voyage——The Water Planet

    If we didn't have water in large quantities on the surface of the Earth, with its moderating temperature capabilities, we wouldn't be able to have life as we know it. But perhaps most significant is that slightly more than 70% of it is covered in liquid water. And indeed a case can reasonably be made that it is water, more than anything else, that truly defines and distinguishes the seemingly misnamed planet earth.
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    The Endless Voyage——First Steps

    The earliest attempts to explore the ocean were dangerous forays into a vast and unfamiliar world, led by heroic individuals with little more to guide them than insatiable curiosity and a sense of adventure. The earliest marine studies were driven by practical considerations—travel, trade, warfare and the search for food. An oceanographic vessel today is essentially a floating lab, equipped with the latest computerized technology. It is capable of gathering data from the depths of the world ocean, then communicating with virtually any point, either on land or in the air.
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    The Endless Voyage——Making the Pieces Fit

    The idea of continental drift was proposed by Alfred Wegener. This was totally against anything that had been proposed prior to this. Plate tectonics is really a catch-all for everything that's happening at the surface of the earth. Seafloor spreading—seafloor spreading causes continental drift, if you will. As the fact that the seafloor is opening up—that will drive the continents in motion. All of this goes under the major heading of plate tectonics. Plate tectonics is a larger theory that incorporates the idea of continental drift.
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    The Endless Voyage——World in Motion

    If there were no plate tectonics on the Earth, the Earth would be a lot like Venus. All the features of Earth are there for a good reason, and usually a plate tectonic reason. The volcanoes, the earthquakes, all of that is somehow tied into tectonics. It's hard to look at anything on the Earth's surface without actually thinking about plate tectonics.
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    The Endless Voyage——Over the Edge

    The water's edge, the first leg of an odyssey that extends from the junction of land and sea to the submerged edge of the continents, and finally, to the bottom of the deep ocean. A journey remarkable not so much for the distance covered, but for the astonishing changes that take place along the way.
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    The Endless Voyage——The Ocean's Memory

    Marine sediment blankets the seafloor, containing within it long held secrets that can lie buried for millions of years, secrets about earth's ancient climate, ocean chemistry and circulation. Even earth's shifting magnetic polarity leaves its signature deep with the sediment of the seafloor. And so, in a very real sense, sediment is indeed the ocean's memory.
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    The Endless Voyage——It's in the Water

    The Earth is unique with having a lot of water on its surface, at least in our solar system. We would be terribly different creatures, if we would be creatures at all, in absence of water. One of the primary chemical features of water is its polar structure. One of the biggest miracles in the universe is the oxygen molecule and its bond angle that it forms with hydrogen.
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    The Endless Voyage——Beneath the Surface

    In fact, because of the property of the ocean itself, its temperature, salinity, light, it has a very real structure to it, and it's this structure, really, it's this environment, that really allows organisms to adapt to different types of environments, and really gives the oceans its diversity in a sense.
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    The Endless Voyage——Going to the Extremes

    Coral reefs are extremely important to us because, just like all natural environments, they are sources of biodiversity. And the biodiversity of the oceans is important for maintaining the food chain and maintaining the constant evolutionary process that goes into promoting life on Earth.
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    The Endless Voyage——Something in the Air

    The ocean and atmosphere are interacting in many ways. It's sort of a David and Goliath or Mutt and Jeff or something, some kind of argument or dance between ocean and atmosphere that determines climate. The most important thing to understand is that the climate system really is a function of three parts of the whole Earth system. There's the ocean, the atmosphere and the land.
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    The Endless Voyage——Going with the Flow

    In recent years, El Nino events have become the focus of intense scrutiny and discussion, not only among scientists, but within the ranks of the media and the general public as well. In fact, however, the conditions that give rise to these events have been observed for well over a century. During an El Nino, where you've got all this convective precipitation over the east, it can rain a lot in that region. You can have flooding in Peru.
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    The Endless Voyage——Deep Connections

    There's a number of factors that influence both the surface ocean currents and the deep ocean currents. On the surface, you have the wind blowing. Obviously, you don't have that on the deep ocean. But on the deep ocean, you have friction against the bottom, which you don’t have on the surface. Now, in both cases the Coriolis Effect—which is the way that things tend to go to the right in the northern hemisphere and if you push on them—that influences both the surface and the deep currents.
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    The Endless Voyage——Surf's up

    Waves shape the edges of the very landforms we inhabit, and are for most people the ultimate symbol of the marine environment. The sort of ocean waves that I think most of us imagine when we hear the word "ocean wave" is a surface gravity wave, which is also known as a wind wave.
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    The Endless Voyage——Look out below

    As we witness the ongoing impact of dynamic events and processes like tsunamis and sea level fluctuation, one point is unmistakable—the same ocean that provides us with food and moderates our climate can and often does dramatically alter the very face of this planet in ways that exceed anything we can even imagine.
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    The Endless Voyage——Ebb and Flow

    The earth and the moon and the sun have mutual gravitational attraction. And the fact that the waters of the earth in some sense are loose on the earth, they can move around—the small differences in the gravitational forces, because of the relative motion of the earth, the moon and the sun, can make those waters shift, and the results are the twice and once per day ups and downs of the tides.
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    The Endless Voyage——On the Coast

    The coastline is a very sensitive environment. It is the boundary between the entire realm of marine processes and the entire realm of terrestrial processes. Coastlines are, in a sense, nature's dipstick. Like a sparkling ribbon pressed between land and ocean, the coast draws people to it the world over.
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    The Endless Voyage——Due West

    The Southern California coast is a remarkable experiment in the human use and misuse of coastal resources. The blessing and the curse of the urban runoff problem is that each one of us is sort of causing it. The biggest problem with wetlands in the nation and especially in California is that 90% of them have been either altered or destroyed in the last 100 years.
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    The Endless Voyage——Building Blocks

    One can come at the origin of life problem from all different sides. You see evidence of life everywhere. And when we talk about the most primitive, minimal form of life, we're talking about a type of life that is not within our experience today. While there is general agreement within the scientific community about what constitutes life, major questions remain concerning its origins. When did it begin?
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    The Endless Voyage——Water World

    It's known that young stages tend to be surface dwellers, and therefore live in warmer water, and as they get older, they move deeper and deeper. If they're a water column species or a bottom species, there are species-specific patterns of depth utilization by these animals. We don't know if the deep sea animals choose them or if they're just more comfortable there, or if they go someplace where it's too warm or too cold, they tend to metabolize too much or too little. But there are definitely depth-specific patterns by species of fishes in the ocean.
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    The Endless Voyage——Food for Thought

    The world ocean is, among other things, home to a rich variety of fishes. These extraordinary creatures are valued for their beauty, their diversity, and because they provide bountiful source of food. But as valuable as ocean fishes are, there's another group of marine organisms whose contribution to life on planet earth is even more critical. These are the single-celled plants called phytoplankton.
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    The Endless Voyage——Survivors

    The deep sea is the largest living space on Earth. It's home to the largest animal communities on Earth, largest in terms of aerial extent, largest in terms of biomass, largest in terms of numbers of individuals. When we look at the organisms that live on the present land and sea, we're looking at groups that have evolved since that last big extinction. If you look at something that's advanced in terms of survival abilities, you might look at the insects and say, "Boy, they are very advanced".
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    The Endless Voyage——Life Goes on

    Marine vertebrates are the world's largest animals. Vertebrates can swim faster, dive deeper, fly farther, generate more power, and yield greater commercial value than any other ocean creatures. And their brains are large and active.
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    The Endless Voyage——Living Together

    In the ocean environment, there are many types of organisms. So the biodiversity is very high compared to other communities, say, on land. So, inherently, there is high biodiversity in the ocean. This is threatened by processes such as global warming. There is very intense pressure on coastal communities by human activity, and so we're very concerned about changes in biodiversity. This is an index of environmental change, and perhaps a signal that we are having effects that are global for the entire planet.
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    The Endless Voyage——Treasure Trove

    The world ocean is rich not only with the chemicals that are the stuff of life, but with a remarkable array of plants, animals and other resources. The vast majority of oil and natural gas deposits were formed from marine sediments, and trapped in marine sediments. So economically they provide one of the basis of our civilization.
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    The Endless Voyage——Dirty Water

    Surprisingly, to most people, the vast amount of oil enters the ocean from runoff from rivers and so forth, which is essentially accumulated materials like dumping your engine oil in the wrong place. We have dispersed pollutants into estuaries as a result of industrial operations like oil refineries and port and harbor facilities. We've disturbed the natural habitat of plants and animals and migrating or resident birds within estuaries.
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    The Endless Voyage——Hands on

    Some who study the marine environment are driven by insatiable curiosity, love of pure science; others primarily by a desire to contribute to the betterment of planet earth. In nearly all cases, those who choose this field of study do so with an energy and dedication that is nearly boundless. And in many instances, those who follow this path have felt a special bond with the ocean for a very long time.