Marine geology, a relatively new and interesting study field in marine science!
Around 10 years ago I decided to quit my job in health care and searched for a new education that would interest me. My choice was Earth Science with Marine Geology as a main study field. And I can say that those precious years studying marine science where the most interesting years of my life and I loved every day of it! I was constantly stunned, amazed, intrigued, surprised and the more I learned the more I felt awe for our beautiful planet; The Earth! Beside knowledge and a degree it gave me perspective on time and on the tiny role human’s plays on Earth.
So, here is some basic information and short information about one of the hidden and mostly unknown areas on Earth!
What is marine Geology?
One simple way to describe marine geology is: Marine geology is the science of the character and history of those parts of the earth that is or have been covered with seawater!
That’s about it, and you will be amazed over how much there is to know about these vast and mostly hidden areas on our blue planet!
When people ask me about my studies, and I answer that I have study marine geology most of them say something like; oh, that sounds interesting, there is so many interesting animals in the sea! And I totally agree, there is an amazing fauna in the oceans but marine geology hasn’t got so much to do with the animals now living in the oceans; that is more the science field for a marine biologist! I suppose this misunderstanding is because marine geology is a relatively young study area compared to the other.
What is the aim with marine geology?
The aim with Marine geology is to gain knowledge of the earth beneath the oceans and develop an understanding of how the earth beneath the oceans got its structure and which processes that created those areas. In order to understand there is need for knowledge about historic global geology as well as knowledge of oceanic history. That is the case for both the earth beneath the present oceans and for the land areas that was covered with water in the past. It’s the same as always; the past is the key to the future! Through this knowledge marine geology can help out in the understanding of current and future climate change. This is very important today with the ongoing climate changes. Another important area of marine geology is the applied marine geology that concerns the knowledge of prospecting the natural assets in the oceans floors, like gas, oil and rare minerals.
The study field!
The study field for a marine geologist is interesting, very exiting and also enormous! The geology of the ocean floor includes about 71 % of the earth’s area. Since the major part of the working field is hidden beneath seawater the study is a little bit more difficult than for a geologist on land. As you all are aware of, because of the sea water marine geologists are unable to walk directly on the surface that are surveyed and to take samples often requires some kind of equipment such as vessels and methods developed for submarine sampling. Another major difficulty is that the study area is on a considerable depth.
Most of the knowledge in marine geology has been gained during the last 6 decades though the foundations for the oceanic exploration were begun around 1831 when Charles Darwin did observations about the evolution of life in earth’s history. Another important event was the Challenger expedition (1872-1876), a global study of the deep ocean, under the direction of Charles Wyville Thomson. From that expedition a solid foundation for marine geology was formed with basic knowledge about different types of marine sediment. But back then they still believed that the ocean floor was a tranquil place with constant sediment deposition. Because of the difficulties to study the ocean floor there wasn’t so much research done in the beginning and the oceans were mostly a study area for the biologists.
The Challenger expedition and Oceanic Geology
Nowadays we know that the ocean floor isn’t at all the tranquil flat area. Instead we know that is has a very interesting topography with deep graves and high mountains. We also know that there is constant activity occurring in the ocean floor.
I will give you some example;
- The most prominent mountain ranges on earth aren’t located on land but can instead be found on the ocean basins, the oceanic ridge system!
- The Mariana Trench is the world’s deepest point in the Earths crust at 10 911meter below sea level.
- The boundary between the oceans and the continents isn’t the present shoreline that you see. The boundary between ocean and continents is on most places on Earth at the gently sloping platform that is called the continental shelf that extends seaward from the shore.
- New oceanic crust is formed at the mid-ocean-ridges through volcanic activity that is a vital part in the Plate tectonic.
- Ocean crust is destroyed at the subduction zones where oceanic crust is forced under either continental crust or oceanic crust.
So, the ocean floor is everything but tranquil, it can be more dramatic than any area on land!
The hidden area on Earth!
A tour down to the Mariana Trench!
The main study fields in marine geology!
A marine geologist study different ocean environments and sediments on the ocean floor such as the deep sea, the more ground sea and the different shorelines. The things that are studied are climate, ocean circulation and the sea currents, both in present and historic. The research is carried out on ocean environments and sediments on seabed but it also involves research on old oceanic sediment that today can be found on land. A common way to summarize and define marine geology is that it involves geophysical, (the Earth´s physical features) geochemical (the Earths chemical composition), sedimentological (how sediments on Earth is deposited) and paleontological (the science of prehistoric life on Earth) investigations of the ocean floor and the coastal margins.
What does a marine geologist do?
As a marine geologist you have a vast and relatively young study field. And the study field is also vast in time since it concerns both the Earth’s history as well as the future of our planet. This means that there is much more to know and to find out. If research isn’t what you like to do there is also the applied marine geology that involves mapping the sediments on the ocean floor, investigation of the spreading of environmental pollution, industrial development of natural recourses as oil, gas and other minerals. One very interesting area is the study of tectonic activity on the ocean floor and the ocean floor spreading. Another practical work is to study the ocean floor in connections with laying out cables on the ocean floor, building bridges, pipelines, harbour construction, wind power stations and other things that are attached to the ocean floor. This vast study area also means that you can work all over the world.
I hope I have inspired some of you to know more about this great topic or even to choose a career in marine geology. So, if there is someone out there who is interested in this study field; Go for it, and do it right now! You won’t regret it! You will have several years a head of you filled with pure joy and great beauty!