Water/Hycean Worlds & Oceanography

Video: Ocean World Exploration: Seafloor Mapping In 60 Seconds

By Keith Cowing
Status Report
E/V Nautilus
December 11, 2023
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Video: Ocean World Exploration: Seafloor Mapping In 60 Seconds
Seafloor Mapping — E/V Nautilus

Editor’s note: we’re sending two missions to the Jovian System to study ice-covered ocean worlds – worlds that may contain life. How we explore and chart Earth’s oceans and its biota can serve to inform these missions. Moreover, as we expand out further to planets in other star systems, we will be confronted with a variety of oceans below and above a planet’s solid surface. The more we figure out on Earth the easier these off world exploratory tasks will be.

How exactly do we map the seafloor? Onboard E/V Nautilus, our Corps of Exploration uses the Kongsberg EM302 multibeam echosounder to create detailed seafloor maps. By generating sound beams and collecting returning data, this technology allows us to piece together the topography of the deep sea. Seafloor mapping began over a century ago, yet less than 25 percent of the world’s ocean has been charted at high resolutions. Our seafloor maps contribute to the Seabed 2030 initiative, an international collaborative project to combine all bathymetric data to create a comprehensive map of the ocean floor.

Having 3D maps of the seafloor also leads our ocean exploration goals. When exploring little-known ocean regions, we often need to create our own maps to plan efficient and safe operations. Whether focused on a canyon, seamount, or shipwreck, creating a map allows us to identify potential targets, cutting down exploration time and boosting our mission efficiency. Before ROVs are deployed, our team must first map the area to understand the region’s characteristics and identify potential benthic habitats, seeps, and other environments and resources worthy of exploration.

E/V Nautilus is exploring unknown regions of the ocean seeking out new discoveries in biology, geology, and archaeology. Join us 24/7 for live video from the seafloor and to ask questions of our explorers currently aboard Nautilus: https://www.nautiluslive.org.

Astrobiology, Oceanography,

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻