Marie Tharp

Marie Tharp’s Big Map for a Big Ocean

What’s the tallest mountain in the world? Without the seminal work of Marie Tharp, this question may have remained unanswered. In the first half of the 20th century, Tharp worked together with Bruce Heezen to bring definition to the world of the deep blue, a topographic map of the world ocean. At a time when acoustical mapping techniques were extremely basic, Tharp brought the seafloor to life by illustrating the dramatic geographic features of the ocean for all to see.

The tallest mountain in the world is, of course, Mauna Kea in Hawaii, which beats Everest’s height when you consider that the mountain extends from the ocean floor. And speaking of revelations about ocean topography — known as bathymetry — we can’t discount the amazing work of Google in creating Google Ocean. It was, in fact, at Sylvia Earle’s suggestion that the technology giant embarked on the Google Ocean project. And now, in 2013, we can see Mauna Kea for what it is — above and below the water.

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When you consider that science has only explored a tiny fraction of the ocean — when you take a step back and realize how much life and geology is beneath the waves — perhaps it sparks a desire to learn more about the deep, a desire that Marie Tharp well understood. Act on it!

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