Much like space, the ocean is terrifying.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking smack about the beach. If I were to list my top five favourite places, beaches would take up at least three slots. It’s only further out, in the dark, crushing depths of the Marianas Trench, that things start to look like my own personalised horror movie.
Here’s three reasons why.
I hate fish even on a good day. They’re slimy, they don’t blink, and they taste weird. Also, gills. Gills are gross.
Once you’re about 1,000 metres underwater, it’s time to kiss sunlight goodbye, but there are still plenty of fish hanging around. Some of them even make their own light, but while bioluminescence is inherently awesome, it doesn’t always end up looking like a James Cameron movie.
Other deep-sea inhabitants include the goblin shark (with it’s nightmarishly extendible mouth), the giant squid (which took us an embarrassingly long time to find), and sea spiders (which are considerably larger than land-spiders).
Unsurprisingly, water is both denser and heavier than air. The air pressure at sea level is about 101kPa, or one atmosphere (atm). The pressure at the deepest part of the ocean is roughly one thousand times that.
Just one example of what can happen when you mess around with pressure is the Byford Dolphin incident, a diving bell accident in which pushing the wrong button caused pressure to go suddenly from 9 atm to 1 atm. What happened next is known as explosive decompression (exactly what it sounds like) and killed five of the six workers present instantly.
If you’re lucky enough to avoid explosive decompression, you might just end up with regular old decompression sickness. Colloquially referred to as “the bends”, decompression sickness happens when a scuba diver comes up too fast. The sudden change in pressure causes nitrogen to form bubbles in the bloodstream, which can then ruin blood vessels and damage any part of the body, up to and including the brain and spinal cord.
There’s a reason underwater welders can earn six figures a year.
I know, the ocean isn’t nearly as big as space, but hear me out.
The Challenger Deep is the deepest known point of the ocean, and only three people have ever been there (strangely, one of them is James Cameron). It’s is approximately 36,200 feet below sea level. Eleven kilometres. That’s a just a little further than I have to drive to get to campus.
Except it’s all water. And it’s above you.
Sources (in order of appearance)
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