Wonders of the Oceans: Coral Reefs, Rings, Scary Creatures, Mythic Monsters & More
Establishment of the Global High Seas Marine Preserve, which will ban industrial and commercial fishing in international waters, is meant to protect all creatures in the oceans from needless destruction, which translates into meaning consumption of sustainable seafood sources which doesn’t wipe species or habitats.
Now, there are many creatures in the seas humans have never seen, ones that are extremely bizarre like aliens from another planet, some from the deep sea they generally don’t survive anywhere but in an environment that is hundreds of times more high pressure than the surface waters. Oil companies do most of the mapping of the ocean floor around the world and their video surveillance cameras often pick up bizarre creatures attracted by the lights or the structures, see the second video below. Or the Giant Isopod, pictured right, which get bigger than this one picked up by a Shell Oil ocean floor mapping expedition.
Then we find huge version of common fish, like the 515 pound Halibut caught by the young fisherman shown dwarfed by his prize. The oceans are amazingly complex and continually offer up surprises to even the most seasoned explorers and researchers. Creatures adapt to extreme depths where the pressure would crush a man’s skull and sharks survive everything nature had to offer for over 400-million years.
Industrial overfishing of the high seas, as has been done for the last 50 years, can’t continue much longer. Many of the most important species are facing extinction while the smaller species, such as anchovies, are being hunted for use to feed salmon in the newly constituted fish farms.
Discovery Channel Strange Deep Sea Creatures
Massive Unidentified Sea Monster Caught on Video Off Oil-Rig
The Great Barrier Reef Documentary
Exploring Mysterious and Enigmatic Bottom of Belize Blue Hole
Natural Miracles under Ocean
The Great Barrier Reef that lies off the last coast of Australia is one of the largest natural wonders of the planet. Then again, coral reefs by definition are miracles under ocean in themselves, for unlike water-falls or hot springs or rock pinnacles, they are formed not by inorganic natural process but by living creatures: they are the remains of small marine organisms. The coral polyps whose hard exoskeletons combine to form a reef are tiny indeed: an individual polyp is only about 0.03 inches long. The Great Barrier Reef, on the other hand, is massive: it stretches for 2,300 miles (1430 km) along the east coast of Queensland.
The dichotomy between the minute polyps and the vast structure they form is accounted for by the other essential factor in the shaping of reefs: eons of time. The Great Barrier Reef we see today began to take shape some 9000 years ago, forming exoskeleton by exoskeleton on the remains of an earlier reef that scientists believe was in place as long as 600,000 rears ago.
Coral polyps, also known as hard or stony corals, generally live in communities. They feed on tiny plankton in the ocean and also absorb nutrition from algae that dwell in their tissues, secreting calcium carbonate as they grow. Because they flourish in very specific conditions-requiring sunlight, clear water warmed to 64 to 88 F and a minimum of severe wave action corals are confined to tropical and subtropical areas of the globe.
Reefs assume a wide variety of forms. Fringe reefs are those that form a ring attached to the shore of a tropical island, sometimes with a lagoon between the reef and shore. Barrier reefs grow parallel to the shores of continents, with deep lagoon between reef and shore. Australia’s mighty reef forms a beautiful necklace around the northeast coast of the continent, a coral archipelago made up of almost 3,000 distinct reefs and some 900 islands in the Coral Sea.
But like smaller reefs all across the planet, the Great Barrier Reef is threatened by climate change:warmer ocean waters lead to a process called coral bleaching in which the algae coral use for nutrition die off, leaving behind colorless, dead corals. Major bleaching events struck this reef in 1998, 2002 and 2006; more can be expected. Scientists say the coral reefs to Australia’s west in the Indian Ocean are even more seriously endangered owing to warming seas; indeed, the ongoing rapid decline of coral reefs around the planet is one of the most unsettling signs of global climate change.
Rings in the Ocean
Atolls are oceanic treasures, hiding in plain sight. The term atolls was coined by South Pacific islanders for these unique circular or elliptically shaped reefs that grace the island archipelagos in their region. For scientists, atolls posed a mystery that required more than 100 years to solve. The problem: they are composed of coral reefs whose older sections extended well under the surface, whereas coals, by their nature, can only live in shallow waters, where the tiny creatures that build them can receive the sunlight they need to live.
The Sherlock Holmes of the atoll was naturalist Charles Darwin. During his voyage aboard the H.M.S Beagle in the 1830s, he studied atolls and reached surprising conclusion: they are built on the remnants of extinct volcanoes, and the corals are latecomers in the process that forms them.
Darwin noticed that atolls seem to exist in three stages of development. In its first stage, an atoll is a fringe reef forming around the slopes of a volcano. Next, an atoll forms a barrier reef that encircles the volcano, much of whose substance is submerged below the waves, deeper than coral reefs can live. In its third stage the volcano is entirely submerged, and a ring of coral reef forms around a central lagoon.
Darwin argued that atolls form as volcanoes slowly subside into the ocean. The hypothesis fit the stages except for its argument that volcanoes could somehow sink beneath the waves. It wasn’t until the theory of plate tectonics was accepted, more than 100 years after Darwin’s voyage, that scientists realized that extinct volcanoes could indeed subside into the sea, as they cool and contract, or as the giant tectonic plates that compose the planet’s crust slowly move and shift locations. Elementary!
An atoll is a coral reef forming a circle or ellipse that surrounds the remnants of a submerged, extinct volcano. But not all the graceful rings in the ocean are atolls. Consider one of the loveliest sights in the Caribbean Sea, the Great Blue Hole off Lighthouse Reef, east of Belize. This deep-blue circle, almost entirely surround by a reef, seems to offer a portal to the oceanic underworld. Indeed, it is has been measured to be 410 ft. (125 m) deep, even though the waters in its vicinity are very shallow, like many of the coastal shelves off the isles of the Caribbean.
What’s going on? The Great Blue Hole is an example of a phenomenon that occurs in both the hydrosphere and the pedosphere: it is a sinkhole. Like sinkholes on land the kind common in regions of karst topography that seem to appear without warning, bent on swallowing homes it was initially formed as a void in a limestone cave system.
During the last Ice Age, which ended about 10,000 years ago, the Great Blue Hole and the area around it were above land. But when melting ice filled the planet’s oceans with water, the cave system was submerged. Sometime later, in a process that echoed those that forms the cave like cenotes not far away in Mexico, the roof of the cavern collapsed, and the vast space filled with water: the Great Blue Hole.
Some 1000 ft. (305 m) wide, this ring of bright has become one of the most sought-after sites in the world for scuba divers; indeed, the inventor of the scuba apparatus that made undersea exploration a popular sport, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, was one of the first to probe its splendors.