“We know more about the surface of the moon than we do about the abyssal floor.” –from the narration by David Attenborough
The abyssal floor being the bottom of the ocean, that flat desert prairie that covers, again according to this fine documentary, a third of the planet’s surface area. It’s about three miles below the surface, and most of this film takes place down there, pictured from a state-of-the art submersible that can withstand the incredible pressure and temperatures at that depth.
Temperatures? That’s right: the extreme cold and heat, the latter courtesy of large jets of steam that shoot up from under the surface of the ocean. The life forms that cluster along such areas are truly alien, and surprisingly colorful.
That’s the major attraction of this documentary for me: the dizzying array of movement, color, and form represented along the ocean floor is far more fantastic than anything any fantasy artist ever envisioned, and it’s only been visible to us for about the last thirty years or so. And this must be the best view of it we’ve had yet.
Going off on a slight tangent, has anybody else felt the mild disorientation that occurs when you find that our understanding of the world, so confidently explained to us as children, has since evolved? I’m thinking specifically of a trip my wife and I made to an excellent dinosaur museum in Utah a few years ago, which had plenty of awe-inspiring exhibits whose accompanying plaques explained that they were discoveries of the late 90’s, which presented us with entire new species, and reversed some of the ideas we used to be so comfortable with about dinosaurs. Remember all those stegosaurus and brontosaurus figures you saw in everything from Fantasia to The Land Before Time? All wrong. Weird.
Back to the ocean floor, the same thing is underway. Twice, the narrator impresses us that less than 1% of the ocean floor has been explored, and new species are being found every ten days. Truly, this world of ours is still young and has more than enough mystery and excitement to keep us busy for a lifetime. Perhaps it’s time to make Indiana Jones and the Monsters of the Mariana Trench.
We’re living in a golden ago of documentaries, and even if we restrict ourselves to the science ones, we have a great library to draw upon. Watching The Blue Planet reminded me of another of my favorite such documentaries, The Best of Nature: 25 Years. You know a clip show highlighting 25 years of award-winning reporting is going to be good. Maybe your local PBS station will play it during the next pledge week. That’s when I taped my copy.
I love science. I’m not a tech geek or especially literate in the hard sciences, sadly, but I have great respect for the massive power and beauty of the natural world, a realm that will forever dwarf our ability to understand it. A thousand years from now, awe-inspiring discoveries will still be around the next corner. As much as I try to see as many good science shows, books, and web sites as I can, I caught my first glance of the world’s largest mountain range this morning on The Blue Planet. It’s under water. So cool.
Besides these two shows, might I also recommend three related web sites? SciTechDaily and Science News keep me up to date on the latest research and discoveries, and Astronomy Picture of the Day has been my family’s traditional window into God’s cosmic art for years now.
Here’s today’s picture: