Oceanography is a fairly new professional area of study. However, people have been studying curiosities about marine life and oceans ever since the beginning of time. Throughout history, man has created vehicles and other instruments for under water exploration. As oceanography continues to grow in knowledge, the water levels begin to sink.
As a growing global population stresses the ability of our society to produce food, water, and shelter, we will continue to look to the oceans to help sustain our basic needs. Advances in technology, combined with demand, will improve our ability to derive food, drinking water, energy sources, waste disposal, and transportation from the ocean. It will be up to this and future generations to build upon our existing knowledge of the ocean and its potential to help meet the needs of the world and its inhabitants.
Oceanography, perhaps more than any other scientific discipline, is dependent upon a group of instruments that are both extremely rugged and extremely accurate. These instruments can include dredges and tow sleds, hull-mounted instruments, water sampling bottles, temperature measuring devices, acoustic measuring and monitoring devices, chemical sniffers, and a whole host of other instruments designed to observe various natural or human-caused phenomena or capture samples of the creatures of the deep. Oceanographic instruments have to survive and function properly in extreme conditions. Pressures can exceed hundreds of atmospheres (one atmosphere increase per ten meters of water depth); temperatures can change up to 50 degrees Fahrenheit causing expansion and contraction of various metallic operating parts; the instruments themselves are occasionally subjected to attack by various marine creatures during deployment; ropes and lines used to transport instrument packages through the water column or tow instrument arrays can be fouled on bottom features or broken merely because of fatigue; and a plethora of additional problems can plague the scientist who dares to put his instruments in the ocean.
Man in imperfect. One can research and create instruments that are designed to forgo these certain conditions. However, mother nature is unpredicable. By going under water in a human designed submarine, one may suffer under the risk of a human error or unpredictable act of mother nature. In this event, a man made submarine might not be able to adhere to these unpredicable dangers.
Oceanographers and others involved in these disciplines often work together to unravel the mysteries and unknowns of ocean science. In many government-sponsored research efforts, preference is given to projects that integrate the separate disciplines of oceanography and incorporate important principles from each to better understand a system, phenomenon, event, or process.
Physical, chemical, and biological oceanographic studies provide a way of monitoring ecosystem state and its variation, in space and time. They also provide a means to link organisms at higher trophic levels with this variation, which can significantly affect distribution, abundance, and ecology.
Geological oceanographers and marine geologists explore the ocean floor and the processes that form its mountains, canyons, and valleys. Through sampling, they look at millions of years of history of sea-floor spreading, plate tectonics, and oceanic circulation and climates. They also examine volcanic processes, mantle circulation, hydrothermal circulation, magma genesis, and crustal formation. The results of their work help us understand the processes that created the ocean basins and the interactions between the ocean and the sea floor.
Physical oceanographers study the physical conditions and physical processes within the ocean such as waves, currents, eddies, gyres and tides; the transport of sand on and off beaches; coastal erosion; and the interactions of the atmosphere and the ocean. They examine deep currents, the ocean-atmosphere relationship that influences weather and climate, the transmission of light and sound through water, and the ocean's interactions with its boundaries at the sea floor and the coast.
The extension of geographic knowledge of the
western world began with the voyages of the ancient
peoples who inhabited the shores of the eastern Medi-
terranean Sea and culminated in the voyages of the
great discoverers, from Christopher Columbus to
Captain James Cook. Mention should also be made
of the important navigational and oceanographic
knowledge possessed by the peoples of Polynesia.
Only recently has the western world come to appreciate
the profound knowledge these people possessed of the
characteristics of the sea, for without compass, they
made voyages over the vast areas of the Pacific.
America is a new country in comparison to other countries of the world. It is also new to it's studies of the ocean. America has never had to search the sea with out a compass or technology like the Polynesians did. Therefore, Americans have advanced the technological standard in which to study the ocean with.
Modern oceanography began as a field of science only a little less than 130 years ago, in the late 19th century, after Americans, British and Europeans launched a few expeditions to explore ocean currents, ocean life, and the seafloor off their coastlines. The first scientific expedition to explore the world’s oceans and seafloor was the Challenger Expedition, from 1872 to 1876, on board the British three-masted warship HMS Challenger.
Early scientists reasoned that the low temperature, high pressure and lack of light would make life in the depths difficult, if not impossible. However, for centuries indirect and anecdotal information from fishermen and sailors suggested that there was life in the ocean depths.
Oceanography may be one of the newest fields of science, but its roots extend back several tens of thousands of years when people began to venture from their coastlines in rafts. These first seafaring explorers, navigators and oceanographers began to pay attention to the ocean in many ways. They observed waves, storms, tides, and currents that carried their rafts in certain directions at different times. They sought fish for food. They realized that although ocean water didn’t look different from river water, it was salty and undrinkable. Their experiences and understanding of the oceans were passed down over thousands of years from generation to generation in myths and legends.