Copyright

What is Oceanography? - Definition, History & Facts

What is Oceanography? - Definition, History & Facts
Coming up next: Gas Giants: Definition & Explanation

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:02 Oceanography
  • 1:10 History of Oceanography
  • 3:03 Oceanic Facts & Oceanography
  • 4:09 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amanda Fay
While over 70% of the earth is covered by the oceans, much of it remains a mystery. Its immense size and depth entice scientists to uncover these mysteries. In this lesson, you'll learn about oceanography, the field that studies the world's oceans.

Oceanography

Did you know that phytoplankton, sea weeds, and other sea plants living in the ocean produce about 50% of the oxygen we breathe? Through oceanography, we've learned some amazing facts about the ocean, though there are still many questions to answer, like how many species of plants and animals actually exist in the world's oceans. Oceanography is the study of the world's oceans, including aspects of its biology, chemistry, physics, geology, and meteorology, among many others.

For example, chemical oceanographers study the composition of seawater and the chemical interaction of seawater with the atmosphere and sea floor. Biological oceanographers study plants and animals in the marine environment. Geological oceanographers explore the ocean floor and the processes that form its mountains, canyons, and valleys. Physical oceanographers study the physical processes in the ocean, including waves, tides, currents, eddies, and the interactions with the atmosphere. In fact, ocean scientists and their tools have advanced so much that they can even measure the temperature, depth, and salinity of the oceans from space using satellites!

History of Oceanography

Humans have been interested in the oceans since pre-historic times when people would venture out from their homes along the coast on rafts. Around 2,000 to 3,000 years ago, naturalists and philosophers, including Aristotle, began to try to study and understand the vast bodies of water. However, the modern field of oceanography did not emerge until late in the 19th century when America, Britain, and Europe joined together to fund expeditions to explore ocean currents, the seafloor, and the life that thrived within the ocean.

The first organized, scientific outing to explore the world's oceans and seafloor was the Challenger Expedition, which was onboard a three-mast British warship in 1872 that circumnavigated the earth. During World War II, the potential to gain an advantage in submarine warfare spiked a further increase in interest in understanding the oceans.

Sir John Murray, a Scottish scientist during the late 1800s, is considered the father of the field of oceanography and was the first to coin the term oceanography. He participated in the Challenger Expedition as an assistant and was the first to note the existence of oceanic trenches.

Despite many years of study, our knowledge of the ocean is confined to the top couple miles of the ocean. It's often predicted that for every one species of marine life we have identified, there are three more that we have yet to discover; that would mean we only know about 25% of the things living in the ocean! However, research vessels are constantly exploring the ocean, taking samples and measurements, and comparing their data to previous measurements to understand how things are changing. Computer models are also an integral part of modern oceanography; since we'll never be able to sample the entire ocean, models are developed using complex math equations to predict what the ocean currently looks like and how it may change in the future.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support