EDITORIAL

Accelerating Ocean Exploration

Science  30 Aug 2013:
Vol. 341, Issue 6149, pp. 937
DOI: 10.1126/science.1244099

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Summary

Last month, a distinguished group of ocean researchers and explorers convened in Long Beach, California, at the Aquarium of the Pacific to assess progress and future prospects in ocean exploration. Thirteen years ago, U.S. President Clinton challenged a similar group to provide a blueprint for ocean exploration and discovery. Since then, the fundamental rationale has not changed: to collect high-quality data on the physics, chemistry, biology, and geology of the oceans that can be used to answer known questions as well as those we do not yet know enough to pose, to develop new instruments and systems to explore the ocean in new dimensions, and to engage a new generation of youth in science and technology. Recently, however, exploration has taken on a more urgent imperative: to record the substantial changes occurring in largely undocumented regions of the ocean. With half of the ocean more than 10 kilometers from the nearest depth sounding, ecosystem function in the deep sea still a mystery, and no first-order baseline for many globally important ocean processes, the current pace of exploration is woefully inadequate to address this daunting task, especially as the planet responds to changes in climate. To meet this challenge, future ocean exploration must depart dramatically from the classical ship-based expeditions of the past devoted to mapping and sampling.