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Mapped Area of Ocean Floor Doubles

The GEBCO Ocean Map 2019. Credit: GEBCO
The GEBCO Ocean Map 2019. Credit: GEBCO

By The Maritime Executive 2019-06-14 00:38:05

Following the efforts of The Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project, coverage of the world’s ocean floor has now increased from six percent to 15 percent. This is equivalent to around 32 million square kilometers of new bathymetric data, an area greater than the landmass of the entire African continent. 

Industry is now making significant contributions to the Seabed 2030 mission to map the entirety of the world’s ocean floor: around 570,000 square kilometers of data – roughly the size of Kenya – have been donated by industry partners for inclusion into the new map.
 
The new figures were presented by Dr. Graham Allen, Acting Director of Seabed 2030, at IMO's MSC101 meeting this week.
 
The project’s efforts to map the entire ocean floor were given a dual boost last month with the news that a team made up of alumni of The Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Postgraduate Training Program at the University of New Hampshire, in the U.S., had won the $4 million grand prize in the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE, a competition to stimulate technological innovation in ocean mapping. It was also announced that XPRIZE and Seabed 2030 would enter into a new partnership to deepen cooperation in pursuit of mapping of the world’s entire ocean floor.
 
The General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO) is the only intergovernmental organisation with a mandate to map the entire ocean floor. With its origins in 1903, pioneered by Prince Albert I of Monaco and inspired by the work of Professor Julien Thoulet, GEBCO aims to produce the most authoritative, publicly-available bathymetric datasets for the world’s oceans.

A complete map of the world’s ocean will facilitate a better understanding of fundamental processes including ocean circulation, benthic habitat distributions, weather systems, tides, sediment transport, tsunami wave propagation and climate change. It will help identify underwater hazards and inform sustainable marine resource management and infrastructure development.
 
Seabed 2030 was launched at the U.N. Ocean Conference in 2017 by Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of The Nippon Foundation, as a collaborative international project with the objective of producing a complete and definitive map of the world’s ocean floor by 2030. To achieve this, Seabed 2030 aims to incorporate all currently available data into the GEBCO grid; to identify existing data not in publicly available databases and seek to include it; identify the areas for which no data exist and inspire and inform future mapping missions in these areas.

As part of the Seabed 2030 Project, four regional centers were established to coordinate and oversee the sourcing and compilation of bathymetric data from portions of the world ocean. These regional centers are based at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany, covering the Southern Ocean; Stockholm University in Sweden, in partnership with the University of New Hampshire, U.S., for the Arctic and North Pacific Ocean; the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, U.S., covering the Atlantic and Indian Oceans; and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) in Wellington, New Zealand, covering the South and West Pacific Ocean. All four centers have all convened regional mapping meetings that brought together representatives from industry, academia, and government. Regional data products are fed from these centers into a Global Data and Coordination Centre hosted at the British Oceanographic Data Centre in Southampton, U.K.
 
The recently released GEBCO 2019 Grid has been developed using datasets from all the regional centers and contains data contributed from public and private sector organizations, including Fugro.
  
Texas-based surveying company Ocean Infinity will donate 120,000 square kilometers of data collected during its search for the missing Malaysian airliner MH370, while in 2019 the Five Deeps Expedition agreed to donate all bathymetric data collected during its pre-dive surveys at the deepest points of each ocean.

The new grid is available to download at www.gebco.net.