What percentage of the world’s oceans have been explored?

Key Takeaway:

  • The vast majority of the world’s oceans remain unexplored: Only about 20% of the global ocean has been mapped using modern sonar technology, leaving much of this underwater world still a mystery.
  • Exploring the ocean is challenging and costly: The ocean is a harsh and volatile environment, and exploration requires advanced technology, skilled personnel, and significant financial resources.
  • NOAA is dedicated to advancing ocean exploration: Through its Office of Ocean Exploration and Research and Office of Coast Survey Exploration, NOAA is committed to discovering and documenting unknown and little known regions of the ocean, as well as creating and maintaining accurate charts of coastal waters.


The ocean is a vast expanse that covers more than 70% of the earth’s surface. Despite its importance to human survival, only a small fraction of the ocean has been explored in-depth. There is no precise data on the exact percentage of the ocean that has been explored. However, experts estimate that less than 5% of the ocean has been studied, leaving vast areas uncharted and unexplored.

To date, much of the ocean’s exploration has been focused on the shallowest depths of the ocean known as the ‘sunlit zone.’ It is in this zone that most of the marine life and biodiversity can be found. However, much remains unknown about the deeper sections of the ocean, known as the ‘aphotic zone.’ These areas are characterized by extreme pressure, cold temperatures, and limited sunlight, which makes exploration more challenging.

Despite the need to explore the ocean further, there are concerns about the potential damage that could occur if more extensive exploration is done. The ocean’s ecosystems are already fragile due to climate change and overfishing, and increased exploration could result in unintended damage. However, avoiding exploration altogether could lead to missed opportunities for discovering new species and learning more about the ocean’s biodiversity.

The Importance of the Ocean

The vast significance of the ocean in global sustenance and commerce cannot be understated. With only a fraction of the world’s oceans explored, resources and potential discoveries are yet to be fully utilized. Its vital role in regulating the climate of our planet ensures its importance in the world stage. However, challenges such as climate change, overfishing and pollution threaten its importance, making conservation efforts crucial. The significance of the ocean is not only a scientific matter, but a political, economic, and humanitarian one as well.

The State of Ocean Exploration

The current status of ocean exploration has made significant advancements, but there’s still a long way to go. Although the world’s oceans cover around 70% of the planet, only a fraction of it has been explored. The vast majority of the ocean is still unknown territory that scientists and researchers are striving to uncover.

Exploration of the ocean floor has been ongoing, and advancements in technology have made it possible to access rugged terrains and depths that were previously unreachable. However, a tremendous amount of area remains unexplored, and scientists are continuously exploring state-of-the-art technology to push the boundaries of deep-sea exploration.

The ocean is crucial to our planet, and there’s still much to learn about it. Further exploration could provide information that could aid in the discovery of new species, deepen our understanding of climate change, and enhance our knowledge of tectonic plate movement and ocean currents.

One way to encourage ocean exploration is by providing funding and investment in new technologies and research. By doing so, we can gain a better understanding of our planet and the vast ocean that surrounds it. Additionally, fostering international collaboration and cooperation can enable us to mutually benefit from the scientific findings.


NOAA’s Efforts in Ocean Exploration

NOAA’s Contributions to Oceanic Exploration

NOAA has made significant strides in uncovering the mysteries of the world’s oceans. Discoveries have been made in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. NOAA’s team of scientists has carried out extensive research in deep-sea habitats, marine biodiversity and climate change.

The organization’s cutting-edge technologies, such as remotely operated underwater vehicles and high-resolution sonar mapping systems, have enabled them to map the ocean floor and explore deep-sea ecosystems in great detail.

NOAA’s efforts in ocean exploration have also led to the discovery of previously unknown organisms and ecosystems. For instance, NOAA’s Okeanos Explorer has discovered new species of corals in the Pacific Ocean, which have never been seen before.

A true fact: NOAA’s Okeanos Explorer is the only federal vessel devoted solely to ocean exploration and discovery.

NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey Exploration

NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey has been actively exploring the world’s oceans for years to gather information regarding their physical, biological, and environmental characteristics.

The following table showcases the recent accomplishments of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey Exploration:

Year Percentage of Oceans Explored
2014 5%
2017 20%
2021 35%

NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey Exploration has been relying on advanced technologies such as sonar, submersibles, and satellites to expand their explorations.

Pro Tip: NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey Exploration welcomes volunteers and aspiring marine biologists to join them on their expeditions.


Exploration of the Earth’s Oceans

Studies have shown that a vast majority of the world’s oceans remains unexplored, with only a small fraction thoroughly studied. The vastness of the oceans and the depth make it challenging to explore fully. However, scientists continue to explore the ocean’s depths using advanced technological equipment such as remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). These explorations have provided valuable information about the ocean’s geological and biological diversity, and more research is needed to understand the ocean’s complexities fully.

Despite the exponential growth in ocean exploration technology, exploration coverage of the world’s oceans remains minimal. The majority of exploration efforts have been limited to the shallow waters near the coasts, while the deeper seas remain mostly untouched. Recent exploration efforts of deep-sea trenches have provided new insights into previously unknown subnautical habitats. These discoveries offer new scientific opportunities for researchers to better understand how life evolved on Earth and how it adapts to extreme environments.

Interestingly, there have been stories of new and surprising discoveries in the oceans, such as the Mariana Trench and the existence of hydrothermal vents. These discoveries have increased scientific curiosity and provided an impetus for more exploration, hoping to yield new discoveries and knowledge. As such, it is imperative to increase ocean exploration efforts to understand the ocean’s vast mysteries fully.

Did You Know?

The percentage of the world’s oceans that have been explored is still unknown. Using sonar technology, scientists have discovered only 5% of the ocean floor. This leaves a vast majority of the ocean unexplored and with potential for new discoveries. Interestingly, there are still some parts of the ocean that are so deep and dark that sensors cannot detect them, making it even more challenging to explore this vast blue world.

Pro Tip: Ocean exploration is a challenging yet exciting field with new discoveries waiting for those who take on the challenge.

##Example Response:

Five Facts About the Exploration of the World’s Oceans:

  • ✅ More than 80 percent of the world’s oceans remain unmapped, unobserved, and unexplored. (Source: NOAA)
  • ✅ Less than 10 percent of the global ocean is mapped using modern sonar technology. (Source: NOAA)
  • ✅ Only about 35 percent of the ocean and coastal waters of the United States have been mapped with modern methods. (Source: NOAA)
  • ✅ Sonar technology is commonly used to explore and map the ocean due to sound waves traveling farther in water than radar and light waves. (Source: NOAA)
  • ✅ NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research leads expeditions to investigate and document unknown and little-known regions of the ocean. (Source: NOAA)

FAQs about What Percentage Of The World’S Oceans Have Been Explored?

What percentage of the world’s oceans have been explored?

Currently, less than ten percent of the global ocean is mapped using modern sonar technology, which means that more than eighty percent of this vast, underwater realm remains unmapped, unobserved, and unexplored.

What is the importance of the ocean?

The ocean is the lifeblood of Earth, driving weather, regulating temperature, and ultimately supporting all living organisms. Throughout history, the ocean has been a vital source of sustenance, transport, commerce, growth, and inspiration.

What technologies are used to map the ocean floor?

Given the high degree of difficulty and cost in exploring our ocean using underwater vehicles, researchers have long relied on technologies such as sonar to generate maps of the seafloor. There are two types of sonar used—active and passive.

How much of the ocean and coastal waters of the United States have been mapped?

For the ocean and coastal waters of the United States, only about 35 percent has been mapped with modern methods.

What is NOAA’s role in exploring the ocean?

NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research is leading efforts to explore the ocean by supporting expeditions to investigate and document its unknown and little known regions, while NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey explores the ocean in a different way, employing hydrographic surveys to generate nautical charts.

How do sound waves help in exploring and mapping the ocean?

Sound waves are helpful for exploring and mapping the ocean because sound waves travel farther in the water than do radar and light waves. NOAA scientists primarily use sonar, short for Sound Navigation and Ranging, to develop nautical charts, locate underwater hazards to navigation, search for and map objects on the seafloor such as shipwrecks, and map the seafloor itself.