Mysteries of the deep

Look: Scientists map Antarctica’s ocean depths in incredible detail

Originally Published: 

Alfred Wegener Institute / PS124 AWI OFOBS team

The Antarctic seafloor is bursting with life.

Sea stars, science-defying sponges, and even the world’s largest breeding colony of fish hide in the dark, cold waters surrounding Earth’s southernmost continent.

But there’s still a lot we don’t know about the most remote ocean on the globe.

With climate change altering sea levels and frozen landscapes, it’s important for scientists to better understand ocean ecosystems and how to conserve them.


This week, researchers writing in the journal Scientific Data describe the most detailed view of the Antarctic seabed’s depths.

It’s the latest iteration of the International Bathymetric Chart of the Southern Ocean (IBCSO), the most detailed map of the region since it first debuted in 2013.


Mapping out the seabed’s depths gives researchers vital information about the region — especially as human activities increase there.


“Despite its remoteness and hostility, human activities are increasingly extending into this distant part of the world, examples including research, fisheries, and tourism.”

write the researchers of the new report.

Tobias Gelston / 500px/500px/Getty Images

Here are 7 stunning views from the new map of Earth’s most remote ocean

7. From a distance, you can see how isolated Antarctica is from the rest of the world. Just the very tip of South America (upper left) is visible on the map.

Dorschel et al,

6. Each rainbow color represents a unique data set, showcasing the vast array of information needed to create the new map.

Dorschel et al, Scientific Data

5. The dark curve in this image represents the extreme depths of Sandwich Trench.

4. This is the layer of depth data that researchers implemented into the final map.

Dorschel et al, Scientific Data

3. Seen here is one of the region’s most recognizable landmarks: the Antarctic Peninsula.

The Antarctic Peninsula

2. The bits of land floating near Antarctica are the uninhabited Balleny Islands.

Dorschel et al, Scientific Data

1. Here’s a stunning image of the Ross Ice Shelf. It’s home to McMurdo Station, an Antarctic research hub.

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