If you map it, they will come: The effort to chart the seafloor

In 2019, an international team of scientists climbed aboard the ship Pressure Drop and headed to the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica. Victor Vescovo, an American adventurer who funded the expedition, had set himself the goal of diving to the five deepest points on the planet’s ocean floor. 

It was an ambitious goal, not only because of the significant risks from storms and mechanical mishaps – as was demonstrated in June by the deep-sea implosion of OceanGate’s Titan submersible – but also because so little of the world’s seabed has actually been mapped. How could Vescovo hope to achieve success if the depths of more than three-quarters of the world’s ocean floor were still a mystery? He needed the expertise of Cassie Bongiovanni, a marine geologist with a newly minted master’s degree in ocean mapping. 

Laura Trethewey’s “The Deepest Map: The High-Stakes Race To Chart the World’s Oceans” introduces this human-interest story as a way to kick off a much larger discussion about humanity’s changing relationship with the oceans. Deep-sea explorations are opportunities not only to make discoveries, but also to raise warning flags.