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Schmidt Ocean Institute Director of Operations Eric King and The Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 former Acting Director Graham Allen.

Schmidt Ocean Institute Maps One Million Square Kilometers of Seafloor and Joins Monumental Mapping Initiative

  (UNITED KINGDOM, 12/11/2019)

Schmidt Ocean Institute, a non-profit dedicated to advancing the world's understanding of the ocean with cutting-edge science, reached a major milestone mapping more than one million square kilometers of ocean floor, and simultaneously made a commitment to The Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project to help create a global map of the ocean floor.

Schmidt Ocean Institute has come together with The Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project for the joint signing of a Memorandum of Understanding to share all of its collected mapping data with the project. According to the Seabed 2030 Project, about 32 million square kilometers or 15% of the ocean has been mapped. The million square kilometer milestone is a big one for Schmidt Ocean, accounting for 3% of this mapping contribution and the discovery of 14 new underwater features.

The groups met at the Royal Society, making Schmidt Ocean one of more than 100 organizations to formally support the initiative. Seabed 2030 is a global initiative aimed at creating a detailed, freely available map of the entire ocean floor by the year 2030. GEBCO (General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans) is the only organization with a mandate to map the ocean floor.

Falkor visiting the waters of Cocos Island National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The organizations are working together to achieve high-resolution mapping that is needed in ocean science. In fact, Seabed 2030 is working closely with the recently announced United Nations Decade of Ocean Science initiative that will begin in 2021. "While mapping the entire ocean floor by 2030 seems like a daunting task, we are making headway thanks to the commitment of commercial, scientific and private vessels, including Schmidt Ocean Institute's R/V Falkor," said Seabed 2030 Director Jamie McMichael-Phillips.

Schmidt Ocean Institute brings unique value due to its focus on mapping remote regions that require high-resolution seafloor imagery to contribute to expansion or additional protections. Some of its large mapping efforts have focused on the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in Hawaii, Cocos Island National Park in Costa Rica, and the Phoenix Islands Protected Area in Kiribati. 

Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in Hawaii. Gold corals like this one can grow for more than a thousand years, and they hold important records of past ocean conditions.

"Most people don't think about the bottom of the ocean. When you look at a map, the ocean is portrayed as flat blue with very few features," said Schmidt Ocean Institute co-founder Wendy Schmidt. "However, this couldn't be further from what the ocean floor looks like. Picture huge mountains and canyons, exotic hydrothermal vent forests and unique conditions that mimic other planets. There are still so many things we do not know about the topography or the ecosystems that cover the largest part of our earth." 

Gaining visuals of the ocean floor is critical to unlocking a better understanding of the world's oceans.  There are predicted to be millions of unknown species whose function and contribution to ocean and human health is still unknown. High resolution maps guide scientists to these unexplored areas where further study and sampling can take place. "A high-resolution map of our seafloor will be an invaluable tool in protecting our oceans," says Schmidt.

Discovering deep sea corals in the Phoenix Islands. The science team and ROV crew prepare for their first dives. It is a real challenge to juggle the positioning of sample boxes, cameras and lighting to achieve the full range of science aims. (Photo: Thom Hoffman)

"What is important is that these maps are open-source and available to anyone from any country," said Schmidt Ocean Operations Director Eric King. "This effort can only be achieved through cooperation and collaboration. Everyone who travels, explores, or uses our oceans has a role to play and can benefit from this initiative." 

Schmidt Ocean Institute will provide mapping data, but has also setup dedicated mapping expeditions like "Mapping the Gaps" with its own research vessel Falkor, to help fill in the holes in previously collected mapping data. "Our organization is happy to see our data be a part of this collective initiative," says King. "I look forward to a day when we can see an image of a fully mapped ocean."

About The Schmidt Ocean Institute

Schmidt Ocean Institute is a 501(c)(3) private non-profit operating foundation established in March 2009 to advance oceanographic research, discovery, and knowledge, and catalyze sharing of information about the oceans.

Since the Earth’s oceans are a critically endangered and least understood part of the environment, the Institute dedicates its efforts to their comprehensive understanding across intentionally broad scope of research objectives.

The Schmidt Ocean Institute combines advanced science with state-of-the-art technology to achieve lasting results in ocean research, to catalyze sharing of the information, and to communicate this knowledge to audiences around the world.
 
Eric and Wendy Schmidt established Schmidt Ocean Institute in 2009 as a seagoing research facility operator, to support oceanographic research and technology development focusing on accelerating the pace in ocean sciences with operational, technological, and informational innovations. The Institute is devoted to the inspirational vision of our Founders that the advancement of technology and open sharing of information will remain crucial to expanding the understanding of the world’s oceans.

Source: Schmidt Ocean Institute


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