Ocean Depth Map
This map shows the different depths of the bottom of the ocean. Each depth has a different shade of blue. For more information hover over the map, for more detail, zoom in. Scroll down if you want to read more about ocean depth.
Depth in Feet
This is a Bathymetric Map. It shows the depth of the Ocean Floor around the world.
Bathymetry is the measurement of the depth of the water in oceans, rivers, or lakes.
Bathymetric maps or charts look a lot like topographic maps. They use lines to show the shape and elevation of land features. On Bathymetric Maps, the lines connect points of equal depth.
The depth in feet looks arbitrary, but it corresponds to depth in meters. The gaps or distances between depths is 1000m. The only gap that has a different value is the first one which is 200m. This is the the continental Shelf or Epipelagic Zone.
The colors on this map are not continuous. They are just different shades of blue to highlight the different features of the sea bottom.
Vertical Divisions of the Ocean
As the depth in the ocean increases, the water column has different characteristics and light penetration. These are the Ocean Zones.
The table below shows the depth in meters and feet. It also shows Ocean Zones and Seafloor features. Each one of these zones is explained below.
|Color||Depth in Feet||Depth in Meters||Ocean Zones||Seafloor Features|
|0||0||Epipelagic Zone||Continental Shelf|
|3280||1000||Mesopelagic Zone||Continental Slope|
|16404||5000||Abyssopelagic Zone||Abyssal Plain|
|22965||7000||Hadalpelagic Zone||Oceanic Trench|
|29527 to 36089||9000 to 1100|
The Continental Shelf is the part of the continent that is submerged under water. This area is relatively shallow. It starts at the coastline of a continent and ends at the shelf break.
Continental shelves are part of the continent even though they are underwater.
The continental shelf was exposed by drops in sea level due to glacial periods. Marinebio.
The average depth of the Continental sea Shelf is 150m. The width varies across continents but it can average 80km.
If you look at this map the light blue colors next to the continents show the sea shelf.
South America next to the Pacific has a narrow shelf, while the Bering Sea has a wide Continental Shelf.
Sunlight penetrates the shallow waters of continental shelves which makes this areas rich in sea life from microscopic algae to big mammals like sealions. Another reason this area is rich in organisms is because it receives nutrients from river runoff.
Continental Slope is the slope between shelf break and the deep ocean floor. About 8.5 percent of the ocean floor is covered by the continental slope.
The continental slope is part of the Continental crust.
The average angle of the continental slope is 4°. The Continental Slope on the Pacific Ocean tends to have more than 5° because it is an active Margin. The Atlantic Coast is more passive and usually has less than 3°.
Continental slopes can be cut by submarine canyons, an example is the Congo canyon which follows the mouth of the Congo River.
Close to the continents the sea shelf slope increases dramatically. This is why it is not prominent in the map. It is quite difficult to find this depth on it as it is very narrow.
The continental rise is a wedge of sediment that has accumulated at the base of the slope due to the change in gradient from the steeper slope to the virtually flat abyssal plain. This build-up of sediment is similar to the debris that accumulates at the base of a cliff.
It is mainly silts, mud and sand that has been deposited by turbidity flows.
Continental rise is almost absent where there are sea trenches due to active subduction zones.
Abyssal Plains are underwater plains on the deep ocean floor. They are usually 4500 and 6000 meters deep. They are some of the flattest places on Earth.
Trenches are long and narrow canyon like features, parallel to continental margins. They are the deepest parts of the ocean floor.
Trenches are associated with intense volcanic activity, usually in the form of volcanic arcs, or volcanic island chains, that develop above the descending side of the subducting plate associated with a trench. Most tranches are in the Pacific Ocean. Source: Geologycafe.com
Mid Ocean Ridges
The Ocean Ridges are another visible part of this map. They are not in the table but they are visible in the areas where the continental plates are separating. Specially visible in the Atlantic Ocean, between South America and Africa.
Mid Ocean Ridges are underwater mountain ranges formed by plate tectonics.
These ridges are uplifted because of the convection currents that rise in the mantle beneath the ocean crust. Therefore forming underwater mountain ranges, throughout the globe. Source: Science Daily
The latest measurements of the ocean seafloor were made with satellite information. These estimates keep updating as we get more information from the seafloor.
Ships like NOAA's Okeanos Explorer, are required to fine tune satellite data. So far only 10% of the bottom of the ocean has been mapped, so these estimates will keep changing. NOAA.gov
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If you are interested in learning more about the ocean floor, I suggest you read the following books found on Amazon.
- Sea Floor Exploration: Scientific Adventures Diving into the Abyss (Springer Oceanography). This book provides an overview of the past 45 years of sea floor exploration.
- Global Tectonics: Explains the processes that take part in forming the seafloor.
- Physical Oceanography and Climate: A global look into how the oceans are affected by atmospheric chenges.
- Biological Oceanography, 2nd Edition: An incredible book packed with information about the creatures living in the water column.
- HUMMINBIRD 407860-1 / Humminbird HDR 650 Black, White, or Chrome Bezel w/TM Tranducer: Because it is not all about, reading this is a Depth Sounder that gives you instant, reliable digital depth readings. Perfect for your next boat trip!
Epipelagic or upper ocean, is the part of the open ocean above 200m.
This is the part of the ocean where there is enough sunlight for algae to make photosynthesis (the process by which organisms use sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into food)
Photosynthetic organisms are primary producers. They are the base of the food chain that sustain the rest of organisms.
The mesopelagic zone (or middle open ocean) stretches from the bottom of the epipelagic down to the point where sunlight cannot reach. This zone is below 200m and above 1000m.
Sunlight decreases rapidly with depth. Photosynthesis is not possible in this zone.
This zone is a major player at removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by storing it for centuries.
The organisms in this zone are not well known. This area is also subject to one of the largest migrations. Fish and zooplankton come here to retreat at dawn after feeding at night in the photic zone.
The Bathypelagic zone is below 1000m and above 4000m, this zone has no sunlight.
The water above creates incredible pressures.
Only Bacteria and soft bodied organisms can thrive in this conditions.
Some organisms have bioluminescence and they use it to attract prey or to find a mate. Some species have lost their ability to see anything at all.
The main food source is the organic material what drops from the Mesopelagic zone.
Other organisms live from the bacteria that thrive in the methane and sulfides seeping from the ocean floor.
It refers mainly to the waters above the continental rise, which are between 3000m to 6000m. It is hard to define exactly where the top limit of these waters is, but the best way to describe it is the area where the water hits 4 degrees Celsius (39.2F).
The waters are calm and unaffected by sunlight or storms on the surface.
No oxygen is produced as there is no photosynthesis. The oxygen present comes from horizontal flow derived from when the water left the polar regions.
Salinity is also constant and higher as there is no direct introduction of freshwater from rain or rivers above. Nutrient concentration is higher as there are no plants to absorb them and dead organisms on settle to the ocean floor.
The average depth of the ocean is 4000m (2.5miles) making this zone the largest living environment on Earth! "It covers over 300,000,000 square km (115,000,000 miles)–about 83% of the ocean’s total area and 60% of Earth’s surface." Untamed Science
These zones are the deepest in the ocean. They are mainly deep ocean trenches and troughs.
This is the deepest marine habitat that goes from 6000m to 11000m or 3.7 to 6.8 miles deep.
People used to think this areas had no life. So far they have discovered about 400 species, and the discoveries keep increasing with more research and better technology.
There are 21 trenches around the world. These are the darkest blue in the map. Some of them include the Marian Trench, Japan Peru-Chile, Tonga, Puerto Rico and Java. Hades
Resources Ocean Depth
The Bathymetry shapefiles to create this map where downloaded from Natural Earth.
If you are interested in the history of diving and would like to learn more about the progress of underwater technology, from the earliest days of diving to the most modern underwater habitats, and if you happen to be close to Panama City, I suggest you go to the Man in the Sea Museum.
Seafloor Map Inspiration
I made this map as a first attempt at visualizing seafloor for a fisheries chart. The map was never finished but I really liked how the bathymetry of different depths looked. I wanted to make it interactive and detailed so the viewer could see how deep is each area under the sea.
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