Antarctic Seafloor Mapped in Unprecedented Detail

New deepest spot revealed along with seamounts and channels
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 9, 2022 12:39 PM CDT
Antarctic Seafloor Mapped in Unprecedented Detail
The updated International Bathymetric Chart of the Southern Ocean.   (

We have the clearest view yet of what's below the Antarctic or Southern Ocean, one of the most remote and harsh regions on Earth, thanks to a five-year mapping effort that, among other things, revealed a previously unknown deepest point. The Factorian Deep at the southern end of the South Sandwich Trench, with a depth of 24,383 feet, could fit nine versions of the world's tallest building stacked one on top of the other. It was measured in 2019 by undersea explorer Victor Vescovo of Texas—one of numerous people who contributed to the project, which sought to update the International Bathymetric Chart of the Southern Ocean published in 2013, per the BBC.

With "1,500 datasets from more than 20 countries and over 80 organizations," it certainly did. While the first version of IBCSO covered the ocean floor poleward of 50 degrees South, the updated version published Tuesday in Scientific Data covers the floor poleward of 60 degrees South—an area of 18.5 million square miles. "You have to realize just what the change from 60 degrees to 50 degrees means; we've more than doubled the area of the chart," lead author Dr. Boris Dorschel of Germany's Alfred Wegener Institute tells the BBC. Ships navigating the waters revealed "a visual extension of the terrestrial world we know below the waves," Dorschel tells Insider. "We now can see canyons, channels, and mounts in great detail in many places"—which you can explore for yourself.

Such mapping aids navigation, fisheries management, and climate change forecasts as, per the BBC, "the rugged seafloor influences the behaviour of ocean currents and the vertical mixing of water." The Southern Ocean is home to the world's largest ocean current, the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, as WION notes. "We can also study how the Antarctic Ice Sheet has changed over thousands of years just by looking at the seafloor," Dr. Rob Larter of the British Antarctic Survey tells the BBC. The Seabed 2030 project from Nippon Foundation and the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans aims to map the entire ocean floor, with help from the most advanced autonomous robots, by 2030. (More Antarctic Ocean stories.)

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