Earth is a water planet, more than 70% of the area is covered with water, basically Ocean. Sea, the word comes from a Proto-Germanic word, Saiwa, that further developed into the English word ‘Sae’ meaning sheet of water, giving us the word Sea at the end. Sea Technology is a huge subject in itself and its explorations are infinite till date.
With every drop of water you drink, every breathe you take, you are connected to the sea. No matter where you live.
– Dr Sylvia Earle
1. Oceanography And History
Lots and lots of questions arise about the Deep Ocean. What’s in there? How deep is it? How’s life survival out there? The only answer is Oceanography.
Oceanography is an interdisciplinary science that studies all aspects of the ocean. It is an Earth Science that covers a wide range of topics starting from the ecosystem, marine life, current waves, seafloor geology, geophysical fluid dynamics, plate tectonics, and many more. Oceanography includes chemistry, biology, geology, geography, climatology, and other branches of science to glean further knowledge of the world ocean. It is also known as the Ocean Science or Oceanology. Modern Oceanography is relatively a young science that began only around 130 years ago, in the late 19th century when the Americans and Britishers started showing curiosity and interest and started expeditions into the ocean to explore ocean currents, ocean life, and seafloor off their coastlines.
Though the study of the ocean started way back but the topic took off during the Second World War when the US Navy wanted to know more about the ocean to gain fighting advantages basically in submarine warfare. So, this was how the deep study of the ocean started. Though it started in the name of gaining power and more advantage by one country but exposed us to a beautiful branch of science, giving us a lot of knowledge about the Ocean.
2. Ocean Explorations:
Exploration is the key to understanding the ocean so that we can more effectively understand, conserve, regulate, and manage ocean resources that are vital to our economy and our future lives.
Even though the ocean covers almost 70% of the world’s surface still very less is known to us.Ocean Explorations is about making discoveries that are unusual and unexpected at the same time. It also means that ocean resources are not just managed but are managed sustainably. Unlocking the mysteries of the ocean ecosystem can reveal new sources for the medical department.
As a species, humans are naturally officious- curiosity, desire for knowledge, and quest for adventures motivate today’s researchers. Many new, old, and combined technologies are used today to study the ocean, which is growing faster with time and gaining new heights.
3. Exploration Tools:
3.1. Marine Archaeology
Marine Archaeology is a very vast subject that involves the deep study of seas and oceans. It is very important to preserve the things that lie within the deep ocean bed making the job tougher for marine archaeologists.
A Marine Archaeology job is not at all easy by any means. Over the years there have been several excavations and restoration work done by marine archaeologists that have helped the world to gain knowledge and see various exhibitions that were once buried under the seas and oceans. In addition to excavating ships and other things from the deep ocean bed, they also offer as an archaeology program, the excavating of human remains and civilizations that may have existed at some point in time and have been deluged underwater for many scores of years.
While an archaeology program provides a good sum of incentives, it also needs to be understood that they possess a potential threat to their life. Natural Calamities like underwater earthquakes, attacks by sharks, or any other deadly marine creature could prove to be damaging to the process of marine archaeology.
Ships that have been submerged need special care which can only be processed by a marine archaeologist as it needs special handling as ships back then were built of wood. It is important that a marine archaeologist takes undue care and protection to excavate and restore the naval vessel without carrying any further damage to it.
Magnetometer is a device that is used to measure changes in the Earth’s Magnetic Field.
Photogrammetry is a method of resembling a three-dimensional structure using two- dimensional images. It is a very efficient way to record underwater archaeological remains and can also be used to distinguish seafloor features.
SONAR fully known as Sound, Navigation, and Ranging is used to search and identify objects in the water. It is attached to water-based activities because sound waves taper off less in water as they travel than do radar and light waves.
3.1.4. Multibeam Sonar
Multibeam Sonar is a type of brisk sonar system that is used to map the seafloor and detect objects in the water or along the seafloor. The multiple physical sensors of the sonar called a transducer array send and receive sound pulses that map the seafloor or detect other objects.
3.1.5. Side Scan Sonar
Side Scan Sonar is a category of brisk Sonar Systems for detecting and imaging objects on the seafloor. The multiple physical sensors of the sonar called the transducer array send and receive the acoustic pulses that help map the seafloor.
3.1.6. Synthetic Aperture Sonar (SAS)
Synthetic Aperture Sonar is an emerging type of sonar that uses an artificial or a synthetic array to capture high resolution-images. SAS can be used to image heritage sites like shipwrecks, classify habitat or biological organisms, and many more.
Darkness, cold and crushing pressures have been the hurdles that challenged the most experienced engineers, and then when submersibles were invented they descend to seafloor depths that are not safe for divers, allowing them to explore more of the deep ocean bed.
3.1.8. Technical Diving
Technical diving is a term used for all kinds of diving methods that exceed the limits imposed on depth or immersion time for recreational scuba diving. Technical diving often involves the use of a special gas mixture for breathing.
Vessels are the most critical instrument for scientists when it comes to exploring the ocean. Starting from onboard equipment to collect weather information and ocean information to divers, submersibles, and other observations set up from a ship.
3.2.1. Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler
The Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler(ADCP) measures the speed and distance of ocean currents using the concept of “Doppler Shift”.
Through Drifters, scientists and researchers study the complexities of global ocean currents. With advances in technology, drifters now provide researchers with information about ocean circulation patterns in original timing.
3.2.3. Geographic Information System
A Geographic Information System(GIS), is a computer-based framework used for organizing and analyzing data related to positions on the Earth’s surface.
Satellites basically that detect and capture different characteristics and features of the Earth’s land, atmosphere, and ocean are often called Environmental Satellites. Most of this kind of satellites have one or two types of orbit known as Geosynchronous or sun-synchronous.
3.2.5. Split Beam Sonar
Split Beam Solar also called Single Beam sonar is a type of brisk sonar that uses sound to explore the composition of the ocean. This machine works by emitting a single vertical sound pulse called a ‘Ping’ at a specific frequency, then waiting for the echo’s return, whether attached to the hull of a ship, a pole mount, or even stationary on the sea bed.
3.2.6. Technologies for Ocean Acoustic Monitoring
Just like a microphone collects sound in the air, basically it is an underwater microphone that collects acoustic signals, or sounds in the ocean, including marine animals, earthquakes, waves, and ships.
3.2.7. XBTs ( Expendable Bathythermographs)
Expendable Bathythermographs, also called XBTs are used to collect ocean temperature data which are torpedo-shaped probes. After being deployed from a vessel, the probe falls through the water column at a concerned rate, measuring the ocean’s temperature and transmitting the data back to the surface.
3.3.1. Submersible collectors
These Submersible collectors, the suction sample, and the detrital sampler were designed to attach to different types of submersibles and collect many of the unique and fragile organisms found only in the deep ocean.
Trawls are nets towed behind a boat to collect organisms that have been used by fishermen for centuries. These are used to collect data on marine life, such as age class distribution, biomass, length, and weight.
CTD stands for conductivity, temperature, and depth. It is a package of electronic devices that is used to check the conductivity and temperature of water changes to depth.
3.4.2. Environmental DNA (eDNA)
It is a genetic material shed by the organisms residing underwater in the water column. By collecting samples of mucus, feces, or tissue particles, researchers and scientists can process the eDNA to make discoveries about marine life.
3.5. Data Management
3.5.1 Telepresence Technology
This technology is a concept of providing both individuals and groups of individuals with the data and information that is required for participation in an event when those people or individuals are not present in the event.
3.6. Emerging Technologies
3.6.1. Uncrewed Surface Vehicles
Uncrewed Surface Vehicles also in abbreviation known as USVs are like boats, which roam the ocean surface, collecting oceanographic and atmospheric data, but without a human on board.
3.6.2. Autonomous Underwater Vehicles
AUVs or Autonomous Underwater Vehicles are independent underwater machines or can be called robots that help us to explore the ocean.
3.6.3. Human-occupied Vehicles (HOVs)
HOVs or Human Occupied Vehicles are relatively small submersibles that help a small number of scientists, researchers, pilots, and electronic equipment down in the water column straight to the ocean floor, allowing and making it easier for in-person research and observation.
4. Revolutionizing Technologies:
4.1. High-Frequency Radars
HFR or High-Frequency Radars is used to measure the speed and distance of ocean surface currents near the coast from a very few kilometers to approximately 200 km. This technique is extremely helpful in search and rescue operations as it helps in detecting objects floating on the sea surface. The radar transmitter sends a signal out to the sea and the conductive seawater surface returns a signal, measuring the Doppler Shift giving velocity and direction.
4.2. Sea Gliders
Sea Gliders is an autonomous underwater vehicle that also can be called an AUV or Underwater Glider. It is developed for continuous, long-term measurement of oceanographic parameters. Instead of an electrically driven propeller, the vehicle uses small changes in buoyancy and wings to achieve motion. This equipment is manufactured for missions covering thousands of miles so that it can last for many months. It can operate at depths up to 1000 meters and the hull compressors as it sinks, matching the compressibility of seawater.
4.3. Animal Telemetry
Animal Telemetry uses marine animals to carry the attached electronic tags. This technology helps us to know how these animals interact in the ocean. it is a tagging method. The sensors track the animals and collect valuable data from the most unreachable areas in the ocean. It helps us to understand the vast deep ocean and the challenges of climate change and marine environmental pollution. The device has been used since 1990 on sharks, sea turtles, whales, and many more.
4.4. Buoy System
Buoy is a floating instrumental platform in the sea that is used to collect information about sea and environmental conditions. Surface buoy, Telemetry, and Shore Station constitute its working mechanism. Surface Buoy collects information about sea surface temperature, current speed, humidity, wave parameters, wind speed, and direction using various sensors. After this, the data is sent to the shore stations through satellites to learn about the data and predict sea conditions and state for the particular area.
Drifters provide ocean circulation patterns in real-time. Using this device, oceanographers can study global ocean currents and their effects. It is deployed from a ship or an airplane. Once it is released and floated, the transmitter starts sending data to the satellite, which further transmits it to the receiving stations where the data is processed.
4.6. Underwater Hydrophone
Underwater Hydrophone is designed to detect underwater noise in the ocean. It follows the principle of a special property that is the piezoelectricity of certain ceramics that produces a small electrical current when dominated by pressure changes. Hydrophone sensor is the basic tool for several underwater acoustic technologies such as Sonobuoys, Cabled hydrophones, and Autonomous hydrophones.
4.7. Geographic Information Systems
GIS is a system for capturing, storing, checking, and displaying geographical data. GIS gives information with just a click. It shows us images of underwater cliffs and flora and fauna flourishing on the ocean floor. Nowadays with changes in evolving technologies, modern GIS technologies uses digital input.
Sound Navigation and Ranging– SONAR is a technology that uses sound waves to find and identify objects underwater. It is categorized as Active and Passive SONAR. Active sonar transmits acoustic signals and detects any object if a soundwave is reflected to the receiver. This is the method that is used to measure water depth at various locations, whereas Passive sonar is used to detect noise from submarines, ships, and other vessels and also marine animals therefore making it very useful in naval operations.
4.9. Satellite Oceanography
The most important work of a satellite is to establish communication from ocean to land, serving a very vital role in ocean observation as well. Environmental satellites provide the image of sea surface temperature which is very useful in knowing water circulation patterns. Satellite imagery maps are very vital for providing information on coral reefs, coastal habitats, and similar environments.
Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicles or ROVs are unoccupied vehicles similar to a robot. The ROV is well equipped with modern technology and consists of a lighting system and a video camera to record. It is fitted with sensors and sampling tools to collect various types of data from the ocean.
5. New Technology And Law Of The Ocean
Advancements in new technologies not only in the ocean topic but also in other fields open up new industries and possibilities. Some of the new ocean technologies can be swarms of underwater mini robots to map the sea floor or sensors on automated underwater vehicles, helping scientists in their research work and producing growing quantities of ocean data, hence blooming knowledge and information.
5.1. International Law on Marine Technology
Maritime law, also called admiralty law, is a body of laws, conventions, and treaties that be in control of private maritime business and other naval matters, such as shipping or misdeed occurring on open water. International rules governing the use of the oceans and seas are known as the Law of the Sea. International law regulates the use of maritime technology and requires the sharing of technology with developing states as mentioned in Part XIV of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea(UNCLOS).
The importance of nourishing the international legal framework to improve marine technology transfer and build the capacity of developing nations to conserve the marine environment is embellished in the current negotiations for a new international agreement.
In the blue economy field, scientists and researchers have done good work in deep-sea research technologies. A whole lot of technological exploration tools can be seen through which we can learn and study a whole lot of research work today. In these SONAR can be said to be the oldest method. Oceans are a never-ending field to study and with that, there are infinite pieces of information that can be discovered in the upcoming future.