The 35 vehicles with the longest production cycles
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Sailors have circled the high seas for centuries now, but what could be found beneath the sunny ocean surface has remained a mystery until much more recently. In fact, it wasn’t until 1875, during the Challenger Expedition, that humanity had its first concrete idea of the true depth of the ocean.
Today’s graphic, another fantastic piece from xkcd, is a unique and entertaining look at everything from the ice-encrusted shore of Lake Superior to the darkest, inhospitable trench (which today bears the name of the expedition which discovered it for the first time).
The graph is full of detail, so we’ll only highlight a few points of interest.
Deep Thoughts with Lake Baikal
Deep in Siberia, adjoining a mountainous part of the Mongolian border, is one of the most remarkable bodies of water on the planet: Lake Baikal. There are a number of qualities that distinguish Lake Baikal.
Depth: Baikal, located in a huge continental fault, is the deepest lake in the world at 1,642 m (5,387 feet). This extreme depth contains a lot of fresh water. In fact, it is estimated that 22% of all fresh water in the world is found in the lake.
Age: Baikal (which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site) is estimated to be over 25 million years old, making it the oldest lake on the planet.
Clarity: Interestingly, the water in the lake is exceptionally clear. In winter, visibility can extend over 30 m (98 ft) below the surface.
Biodiversity: The unique ecosystem of Lake Baikal is home to thousands of plant and animal species. In fact, over 80% of these species are endemic, which means that they are unique to this region.
Who is Alvin?
Since 1964, a diligent research submersible named Alvin has helped us better understand the deep ocean. Alvin explored the wreck of the RMS Titanic in 1986 and helped confirm the existence of black smokers (one of the strangest ecosystems in the world).
Although most of the ship’s components have been replaced and improved over the years, it is still in use today. In 2020, Alvin received an $ 8 million upgrade and is now able to explore 99% of the ocean floor.
We know more about the surface of Venus than the ocean floor. The potential for discovery is enormous.– Anna-Louise Reysenbach, professor of microbiology, PSU
The deepest point of the ocean
The deepest point in the ocean is the Marianne Trench, at 11,034 meters (36,201 feet).
This trench is located in the Pacific Ocean, near Guam and the namesake of the trench, the Mariana Islands. While the trench is the most extreme example of ocean depths, relative to distance at surface level, its depth is shorter than Manhattan.
Obviously, the context of distance to the surface is very different from that of vertical distance, but it is a reminder of how narrow the “explorable” band of the Earth’s surface is.
The ancient Greek word, ábyssos, roughly means “bottomless and unfathomable chasm”. If there is a bottom (the abyssopelagic zone comprises about 75% of the ocean floor), the enormous scale of this ecosystem is certainly unfathomable.
Objectively, the abyssal plain is not the prettiest part of the ocean. It’s almost featureless and doesn’t have the plume of a coral reef, for example, but there are still some very compelling reasons why we can’t wait to explore it. Resource companies are primarily interested in polymetallic nodules, which are essentially manganese-rich formations scattered on the seabed.
Manganese is already essential in steel production, but demand is also seeing a substantial increase in the rapidly growing market for electric vehicles. The first company to find a cost-effective way to harvest nodules from the ocean floor could reap a significant windfall.
Baby drill, drill
Demand for resources can force humans into very inhospitable places, and in the case of Deepwater Horizon, we have chased oil to a depth even beyond the famous Mariana Trench.
Drilling this far below the surface is a complicated undertaking, and when the drilling rig was commissioned in 2001, it was hailed as an engineering marvel. To date, Deepwater Horizon holds the record for the deepest offshore hole ever made.
After the infamous rig explosion and the spill that followed in 2010, this record depth for drilling could stand the test of time.