whimsical cartoon depicting deep sea dredging for marine fauna

A whimsical cartoon depicting deep sea dredging for marine fauna. Source: In "Natural History of the European Seas" by E. Forbes (posthumously) and edited by Robert Godwin-Austen. Forbes' initials are in the lower right of this drawing. (Courtesy of NOAA Library) Click image for larger view.

Why Explore?

1834 - Hassler's Guiding Principle

Ferdinand Hassler, founder of the United States Coast Survey, lived his life by the precept that it was “the duty of every man to be honest and to do good.” Hassler’s philosophy of life is as pertinent today as it was nearly 200 years ago and serves as a driving force for the men and women engaged in ocean exploration and other scientific endeavors. In Hassler, F. R. 1834. Principal Documents Published by F.R. Hassler, New York, printed by William van Norden. p.1.

1843 - Forbes Challenges All to Prove Him Wrong and Thus Sells the Study of the Sea

"... I have put forward several generalizations which to many may appear to be founded on inductions drawn from too limited a number of facts. The objection is to a certain extent true.... In the present state of the subject speculation is unavoidable, and indeed necessary for its advancement. If it be as important as the author believes, further researches are imperatively called for; and since this branch of inquiry , as at present conducted, may be said to have originated entirely with the British Association, he hopes that through encouragement afforded by that body, other and abler observers may be induced to enter the field, one in which the laborers require support, involving as it does time, expense and personal risk. Should the officers of the Navy and the members of the Yacht Clubs take an interest in the subject, much might be done through their aid. To the surveying service the author from experience looks forward confidently for most valuable observations. Since questions of importance to navigation and commerce are intimately connected with this inquiry, it is not too much to look forward eventually to government for its support....” In “Report on the Mollusca and Radiata of the Aegean Sea, and on their distribution , considered as bearing on Geology.” (1843) by E. Forbes. Published in Report of the Thirteenth Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science Held at Cork in August 1843 Published by john Murray, London. p. 179.
1859 - The Joy of Discovery

"The difficulties which attend the inquiry add to the zest of the research; and there is a charm in traveling mentally over the hills and valleys buried inaccessibly beneath their thick atmosphere of brine, unbreathable by mortal lungs ....But, beneath the waves, there are many dominions yet to be visited, and kingdoms to be discovered; and he who venturously brings up from the abyss enough of their inhabitants to display the physiognomy of the country, will taste that cup of delight, the sweetness of whose draught those only who have made a discovery know. Well do I remember the first day when I saw the dredge hauled up after it had been dragging along the sea-bottom at a depth of more than one hundred fathoms.” In “The Natural History of the European Seas” (1859) by E. Forbes, posthumously. Published by John Van Voorst, London. p. 10-11.

1923 - On the Challenger Expedition

"It has been said that the Challenger expedition will rank in history with the voyages of Vasco da Gama, Columbus, Magellan, and Cook. Like these, it added new regions of the globe to our knowledge, and the wide expanses thus opened up for the first time — the floors of the oceans ---- were vaster than the discoveries of any previous exploration.” In Founders of Oceanography and Their Work (1923) by Sir W. Herdman. Published by London, E. Arnold & Co. p. 46.

1923 - The Excitement of Discovery

"At first when the dredge came up, every man and boy who could possibly slip away, crowded round it, to see what had been fished up. Gradually, as the novelty of the thing wore off, the crowd became smaller and smaller ... and as the same tedious animals kept appearing from the depths in all parts of the world, the ardour of the scientific staff even abated somewhat, and on some occasions the members were not all present at the critical moment, especially when this occurred in the middle of dinner-time, as it had an unfortunate propensity of doing. It is possible even for a naturalist to get weary of deep-sea dredging. Sir Wyville Thomson’s enthusiasm never flagged, and I do not think he ever missed the arrival of the net at the surface.” Professor Moseley in “Notes of a Naturalist on the Challenger, p. 501. As quoted by Sir William Herdman in Founders of Oceanography and Their Work (1923). Published E. Arnold & Co., London. p. 48.

1926 - British Pride

"The publicity given to the Challenger Expedition created an emulative spirit among other nations; hence the United States and Germany followed suit almost immediately. One or two other nations then took up the research. Sir George Nares’ Arctic expedition started before the return of the Challenger. Peary’s work north of Greenland, and Nansen’s great drift in the Fram across the Polar Sea, developed ocean research in new fields and led to attention being directed to the only unexplored region left -- viz., the Antarctic continent. Whilst England through Scott, Bruce, and Shackleton took the leading part in commencing to chart the Antarctic continent, many other nations have contributed to ocean research in southern latitudes.“Thus in the past fifty years man has for the first time in history set himself to explore thoroughly the globe he lives on. That the ocean has received good attention is proved by the fact that up to 1912 about 6,000 soundings have been made in depths greater than 1,000 fathoms. Of these, 491 were in depths greater than 3,000, and 46 in depths greater than 4,000 fathoms.” In Nature Notes for Ocean Voyagers (1926) by A. Carpenter and D. W. Barker, 2nd edition. Published by Charles Griffin, London. p. 2.

1926 - Communication with Our Sister Planets

William Beebe on the excitement of ocean exploration: "When ... we realize the possibilities of deep sea life still unknown to us, every haul of the dredge should be welcomed by an expectant enthusiasm equaled in other fields only by the possible hope of communication with our sister planets." In The Arcturus Adventure by (1926) William Beebe. Published by G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York. p. 363.

1932 - Planning and Important Routine in Ocean Exploration

"The story of the expedition is a record of diligent and continuous application to duty on a pre-arranged schedule. But few passages will be found describing the wonders or terrors of the deep, and but few romantic pages of brilliant exploits of physical daring - for the simple reason that the cruise was carefully planned to avoid digressions that might interrupt the discharge of important routine. How faithfully and loyally the plans and observations were carried out by each and every one concerned on board the vessel is abundantly evidenced by the vast number of observations made, samples collected, and data derived, the discussion of and the interpretations from which are real contributions to the physics of the Earth - geophysics.” In the foreword to The Last Cruise of the Carnegie (1932) by J. Harland Paul. Foreword written by John A. Fleming. Published by the Williams and Wilkins Co., Baltimore. p. xvii.

1932 - The Value of Knowledge of the Oceans

"Aside from its importance to many branches of science, a knowledge of the oceans has a practical value for mankind. The intelligent development of our fishing industries, the laying of oceanic cables, the proper construction of harbor-works, oceanic commerce and navigation, as well as long-range weather forecasting, are all dependent on an understanding of the ocean.” In The Last Cruise of the Carnegie (1932) by J. H. Paul. Published by The Williams and Wilkins Co., Baltimore. p. 36.

1932 - Enormous Areas Still Unexplored

"The configuration of the ocean-floor is of great interest to seismologists studying the movements of the Earth’s crust. Oceanographers are also able to explain certain peculiarities of ocean currents by the contour of the ocean-bed. But enormous areas are still unexplored.” In The Last Cruise of the Carnegie (1932) by J. H. Paul. Published by The Williams and Wilkins Co., Baltimore. p. 40.

1932 - The Ocean Planet

“"o indicate how large a part of the Earth is covered by the oceans, we might call attention to the fact that a whole hemisphere, with its center near New Zealand, would have only one-tenth of its area as dry land! And the average depth of the seas is over two miles.” In The Last Cruise of the Carnegie (1932) by J. H. Paul. Published by The Williams and Wilkins Co., Baltimore. p. 36.

1934 - The Society of Wonderers

"Instead of gazing down through water buckets and glass-bottomed boats, in addition to watching the fish milling about in aquariums, get a helmet and make all the shallows of the world your own. Start an exploration which has no superior in jungle or mountain; insure your present life and future memories from any possibility of ennui or boredom, and provide yourself with tales of sights and adventures which no listener will believe - until he too has gone and seen, and in turn has become an active member of the Society of Wonderers under-sea." In Half Mile Down by (1934) by William Beebe. Published by Cadmus Books, E. M. Hale and Company, Chicago. p. 86.

1948 - The Ocean and the Moon I

"Man’s perpetual curiosity regarding the unknown has opened many frontiers. Among the last to yield to the advance of scientific exploration has been the ocean floor. Until recent years much more was known about the surface of the moon than about the vast areas that lie beneath three-fourths of the surface of our own planet.” In Submarine Geology (1948) by F. P. Shepard. p. 1.

1951 - Mystery of the Sea

"We can only sense that in the deep and turbulent recesses of the sea are hidden mysteries far greater than any we have solved.” In The Sea Around Us (1951) by R. Carson. p. 133. Oxford University Press, New York.

1951 - The All Encircling Sea

"Eventually man, too, found his way back to the sea. Standing on its shores, he must have looked out upon it with wonder and curiosity, compounded with an unconscious recognition of his lineage. He could not physically re-enter the ocean as the seals and whales had done. But over the centuries, with all the skill and ingenuity and reasoning powers of his mind, he has sought to explore and investigate even its most remote parts, so that he might re-enter it mentally and imaginatively. “He fashioned boats to venture out on its surface. Later he found ways to descend to the shallow parts of its floor, carrying with him the air that, as a land mammal long unaccustomed to aquatic life, he needed to breathe. Moving in fascination over the deep sea he could not enter, he found ways to probe its depths, he let down nets to capture its life, he invented mechanical eyes and ears that could re-create for his senses a world long lost, but a world that, in the deepest part of his subconscious mind, he had never wholly forgotten.

"And yet he has returned to his mother sea only on her own terms. He cannot control or change the ocean as, in his brief tenancy of earth, he has subdued and plundered the continents. In the artificial world of his cities and towns, he often forgets the true nature of his planet and the long vistas of its history, in which the existence of the race of men has occupied a mere moment of time. The sense of all these things comes to him most clearly in the course of a long ocean voyage, when he watches day after day the receding rim of the horizon, ridged and furrowed by waves; when at night he becomes aware of the earth’s rotation as the stars pass overhead; or when, alone in this world of water and sky, he feels the loneliness of his earth in space. And then, as never on land, he knows the truth that his world is a water world, a planet dominated by its covering mantle of ocean, in which the continents are but transient intrusions of land above the surface of the all-encircling sea.” In The Sea Around Us (1951) by R. Carson. p. 15. Oxford University Press, New York.

1953 - The Siren Songs of the Ocean Bed

"... those who have once listened to the siren songs of the ocean bed never return to land." In The Undersea Adventure (1953) by Philippe Diole. Published by Julian Messner, Inc., New York. p. 4.

1961 - Humankind's Survival and the Sea

"Knowledge of the oceans is more than a matter of curiosity. Our very survival may hinge upon it.” President John F. Kennedy, Jr., March 1961 message to Congress.

1966 - Waters of the Global Sea

"As man continues to break away from his Earth, as interplanetary travel becomes a reality and we earthlings are able to view our planet from the vast reaches of space, we will realize just how much of the earth is in fact covered with the waters of the global sea.” In Deep Challenge (1966) by H. B. Stewart. Published by Van Nostrand, NJ. p. 1.

1966 - One Global Sea

"If in the past we have been prone to limit our geographical thinking to the land areas, we have been equally guilty of thinking of the ocean as something other than a single world-girdling sea. Such phrases as “the seven seas” and “the oceans” imply that, in addition to the seven continents, there are several separate and distinct oceans or seas. The sea is, in fact, one global sea.” In Deep Challenge (1966) by H. B. Stewart. Published by Van Nostrand, NJ. p. 6.

1966 - The Lure of the Unknown

"Probably the greatest enticement for those who today are devoting their lives to the study of the sea is the lure of the unknown, the challenge of the undiscovered, the thrill of discovery on what is truly the last frontier on earth.” In Deep Challenge (1966) by H. B. Stewart. Published by Van Nostrand, NJ. p. 7.

1966 - The Last Great Challenge of Exploration

"Only the ocean remains as the last great unexplored portion of our globe; so it is to the sea that man must turn to meet the last great challenge of exploration this side of outer space.” In Deep Challenge (1966) by H. B. Stewart. Published by Van Nostrand, NJ. p. 9.

1966 - The Interaction of Ocean and Atmosphere

"Perhaps, to man, the most important interdependence of the sea and the land is through their interaction with the overlying atmosphere.” In Deep Challenge (1966) by H. B. Stewart. Published by Van Nostrand, NJ. p. 11.

1966 - Lewis and Clark Comparison I

“The condition of our maps of the deep sea, however, is about comparable to the maps of North America at the time of the Lewis and Clark Expedition at the beginning of the Nineteenth Century.” In Deep Challenge (1966) by H. B. Stewart. Published by Van Nostrand, NJ. p. 13.

1966 - Last Great Untapped Resource

"Man, in his typical wasteful way, has managed to consume his natural resources on land at a rate that is already making him turn to the sea as his last great relatively untapped resource on earth.” In Deep Challenge (1966) by H. B. Stewart. Published by Van Nostrand, NJ. p. 14.

1966 - The Potential of the Self-Renewing Resources of the Sea

"Today man is a hunter of food in the sea, even as his ancestors were hunters of food on land. On land, however, he has by now learned to raise livestock and to farm his fields. He has become a farmer rather than a hunter. Not until he becomes a farmer of the seas, until he is as well versed in ‘aquaculture’ as he now is in agriculture, will he begin to realize the great potential of the self-renewing food resources of the global seas.” In Deep Challenge (1966) by H. B. Stewart. Published by Van Nostrand, NJ. p. 14.

1966 - The Necessity to Understand the Sea

"But the influence of the sea on man’s daily life and on his future well-being is so great and still so poorly comprehended that the sea must be explored, studied, and understood so that it can be taken into account more intelligently whenever man is faced with any problem relating to his physical environment.” In Deep Challenge by (1966) H. B. Stewart Published by Van Nostrand, NJ. p. 17.

1966 - The Deep Frontier

"It remains only for inquisitive, intrepid, and ingenious man to devote more of his efforts and resources to meeting the challenge of the deep frontier [Compiler’s bold lettering].” In Deep Challenge by (1966) H. B. Stewart Published by Van Nostrand, NJ. p. 17.

1969 - The International Decade of Ocean Exploration

"The term ‘International Decade of Ocean Exploration’ can be interpreted very broadly.... A broad statement of the basic objectives of the Decade was developed as follows:

To achieve more comprehensive knowledge of ocean characteristics and their changes and more profound understanding of oceanic processes for the purpose of more effective utilization of the ocean and its resources.” In An Ocean Quest - The International Decade of Ocean Exploration (1969) National Academy of Sciences, Washington DC. p. 2.

1969 - Objectives of Deep Ocean Exploration

"The objectives [of deep ocean exploration] would be the production of descriptive products such as those described by the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Oceanography in its suggestions for ocean-wide surveys, or those produced by the Environmental Science Services Administration Coast and Geodetic Survey in its SEAMAP program.” In An Ocean Quest - The International Decade of Ocean Exploration (1969) National Academy of Sciences. National Academy of Sciences, Washington DC. p. 42.

1984 - The New Frontier

"The ocean floor is the new frontier of earth exploration.” In "Deep-Sea Hot Springs and Cold Seeps” (1984) by M. G. Gross. Published in “Oceanus”, Vol. 27, Number 3, Fall 1984, p. 3.

1984 - Lewis and Clark Comparision II

"Thus our exploring of the ocean floor in the newly proclaimed Exclusive Economic Zone is comparable to Lewis and Clark exploring the west.” In "Deep-Sea Hot Springs and Cold Seeps" (1984) by M. G. Gross. Published in Oceanus, Vol. 27, Number 3, Fall 1984, p. 3.

1998 - The Last Unexplored Frontier

"The ocean remains as one of Earth’s last unexplored frontiers. It has stirred our imaginations over the millenia and has led to the discovery of new of new lands, immense deposits and reservoirs of resources, and startling scientific findings. The presence of the human eye and the human ability to sample and to conduct experiments from the coastal regions to the deep ocean abyss has provided answers to questions on critical issues as global change, waste disposal, mineral deposits, and the creation of life itself. In spite of the development of new technologies, comparatively little of the ocean has been studied. The leadership role of the United States has been eroded by a gradual decrease in funding support in spite of public opinion polls that indicate that ocean exploration is more important than space studies. As exciting and enlightening as ocean discoveries have been, they will pale in comparison to future discoveries.” In “Executive Summary: The Legendary Ocean - The Unexplored Frontier" in Year of the Ocean Discussion Papers (March 1998). U.S. Department of Commerce, the Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere: Office of the Chief Scientist, NOAA, U.S. Department of Commerce. p. L-2.

1998 - Future Ocean Exploration

"Ocean exploration gives mankind a sense of human progress and heritage. It provides the experience and knowledge necessary to undertake stewardship of the ocean and its resources, and thus sets a course for future generations to navigate. What lies ahead is still unknown. Whatever it is, however, will be influenced by what is found through tomorrow’s exploration – and, will likely be different than today’s predictions!” In "Executive Summary: The Legendary Ocean - The Unexplored Frontier" in Year of the Ocean Discussion Papers (March 1998). U.S. Department of Commerce, the Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere: Office of the Chief Scientist, NOAA, U.S. Department of Commerce. p. L-12.

2001 - The Ocean and the Moon II

"We know what the surface of the moon is better than we know what the surface of the sea floor is.” James Gardner, as quoted by M. Barber in “Hydrographic crew surveys underwater quake damage” in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer Reporter (March 21, 2001).