Two of the oldest questions in science are, ‘How deep is the ocean?’ and, ‘How much water do the world’s oceans hold?’
Researchers from two top marine-science centers in the United States – the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – set out last year to find the answers.
After employing the latest in satellite technology, computer-modelling tools and global bathymetric data sets compiled over the past 100 years, WHOI’s Matthew Charette and NOAA’s Walter Smith said that the average depth of the world’s oceans is 3,682 meters, and the volume of the Earth’s oceans are 1.332 billion cubic kilometers.
But after completing their colossal calculations – aided by all of the latest high-tech measurement machinery the 21st century could muster – the U.S. scientists made another startling discovery: their findings were virtually identical to those published 122 years ago by 19th-century Canadian oceanographer John Murray, who lacked any of their hi-tech devices. After a series of scientific voyages in the 1870s and 1880s – including Britain’s famous around-the-world Challenger Expedition from 1872 to 1876, which gave birth to the science of oceanography – Murray pegged the average ocean depth at 3,797 meters and sea water volume at 1.349 billion cubic kilometers, within 1.2 % of the value derived from the study. Not too bad for guy who used ropes and stones, eh?