Exploring Our Own Alien World

26 March 2012

Source: New York Times

Author: Tony Haymet

NEARLY 36 years ago, our understanding of life was changed forever when scientists towing a remote vehicle through the depths photographed a cluster of clams on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean far beyond the reach of sunlight, where no life was supposed to be. The clams were nourished by geothermal ocean vents instead of energy from the sun.

Since then, scientists and explorers from around the world have quietly and patiently discovered a foreign universe full of life here on Earth. The latest foray was on Sunday, when the director James Cameron descended nearly seven miles into a trough known as the Challenger Deep, the planet’s deepest known recess, off Guam.

We should honor this accomplishment and encourage continued exploration through a global effort by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to preserve the deep seas. The open ocean beyond regions of national jurisdiction covers roughly half of the planet’s surface. We have no idea what strange life thrives in the blackness there at depths of two miles or more. That’s the point. We know enough that we don’t want to lose it.

Deep-sea researchers live apart from the bright lights and billions of dollars devoted to space exploration. But these researchers, working in relative obscurity, nonetheless have documented rich and surprisingly diverse communities of organisms in the deep sea. These have been low-budget expeditions, mostly robotic, sponsored by a handful of countries with a little capital to invest.


For more, go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/27/opinion/in-the-deep-seas-exploring-our-own-alien-world.html?_r=2&ref=opinion