The ocean is a very fascinating part of our environment. It covers more than 70 percent of the surface of the Earth. It is hard to imagine but 97 percent of the Earth’s water can be found in our oceans. The tiny percentage that is not in the ocean, about two percent, is frozen up in glaciers and ice caps.
People have always wondered how it looks like below the waters of the ocean, what kind of sea creatures are living there, and how can these creatures survive under the water. Thanks to the evolution of technology, there are now several instruments that are used by scientists and researchers to study the ocean.
Usually, scientists and researchers investigated the ocean from ships on its surface. But, it is more important to be able to immerse in the environment so that they can understand it better. One of the world’s first deep-sea human submersible was built in 1964. It is used to find a hydrogen bomb lost in the Mediterranean and to explore the wreck of the Titanic. A submersible owned by the US Navy and operated by WHOI, can carry three people at a time, including two scientists and a pilot. It can travel to a depth of 14,800 feet on dives that last six to ten hours.
Some explorations of the ocean are left to robots because it can harm humans, especially diving in deep parts of the water. The remotely operated vehicles or ROVs are unmanned vessels controlled by scientists from a ship via a tether cable. It contains sonar equipment, video cameras, and still cameras. It also has manipulator arms that are used to collect rock samples, sediment, or ocean life and bring it to the surface.
Autonomous underwater vehicles or AUVs are other robotic voyagers. It can navigate vast distances and collect scientific data without any human control. It is used to survey the mid-ocean or explore the seafloor, descending as far as 19,700 feet. The vehicle can generate detailed maps of the seafloor using sonar, and take photographs of mid-ocean ridges, deep-sea vents, and cold seeps. It can also measure the physical characteristics of the ocean like temperature, salinity, and dissolved oxygen.
Some processes of studying the ocean involve constant monitoring. Thus, scientists use different instruments that continuously provide the data that they needed. They have developed sensors that do a wide range of data collection from measuring water temperature and acidity, to image plankton, and to record whale calls.
Profiling buoys is used to measure chemical signatures that monitor the health of the ocean. It can travel down to 330 feet and drift freely. It sends the data back via satellite while ascending to the surface.
Floats and drifters are still currently being used by researchers. It is one of the oldest methods for studying ocean circulation. These instruments are being dropped to the water and the researchers let the ocean carry it wherever it may go.
Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler or ADCP is an instrument used to measure how fast the water is moving across an entire water column. If it is anchored to the seafloor, it can measure the current speed at the bottom, and also at equal intervals all the way up to the surface.