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If you’ve ever made a trans-Atlantic call — or, heck, used the internet — then you might like to know a few things about the ocean floor. Mighty but enigmatic underwater rivers flow along the ocean bed. And it’s telecommunications companies, who have to lay thick cables for transoceanic phone and internet connections, with perhaps the most to worry about when it comes to mapping those rivers.
Believe it or not, we don’t know how deep large parts of the ocean off the British coast really are, and this is obviously not a good thing for the many sailors who cruise around those waters. A new project funded by the European Community is using technology to solve this problem — technology and lots of boats.
Whale watching: you’re out there on the water with salt spray in your face and wind in your hair, waiting for a gigantic sea mammal to surface and do something splashy. It seems like a touristy thing to do, but scientists actually track whale populations from that very same vantage point. Sea level’s cool and all, but wouldn’t it be awesome to monitor whales — FROM SPACE?? You’re damn right it would, and now it’s actually happening.
Well here’s a new option for the wealthy tourist who’s seen it all. No, it’s not a trip to space. It’s not a floating hotel room or even a wild safari. It’s a luxury submarine — an underwater palace built for a Bond villain that can be yours for the weekend. But it will cost you.
Sure, we all know pollution destroys ecosystems, but, for better or for worse, pollution can create ecosystems too. The billions of tiny pieces of plastic that are now floating in our oceans are exactly that: a novel ecosystem humans have unwittingly made by throwing away too much plastic. Microbes and insects that might have no business thriving in the middle of the ocean suddenly have found a new home amidst all that drifting plastic.
In 1960, scientists did one of those experiments that just aren’t allowed anymore. For the sake of science, they blew up three 140kg anti-submarine bombs off the coast of Australia. A listening station 16,000km away in Bermuda — on the exact other side of the planet — waited. And waited. And, about three and a half hours later, they saw the blip that confirmed their hypothesis: Yes, sound in the ocean really can travel across the world.
While winds may die and clouds may obscure the sun, nothing can stop the rhythmic lapping of ocean waves. Now, an Australian company hopes to harness that power and covert it to usable electricity with the most powerful wave-energy generator ever created. And this is just their small-scale prototype.