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Saxton's Thermometer Bathymetrical Map of the North Atlantic Floor Mysteries of the Deep

What does the bottom of the sea look like? Scientists have started to reveal the topography of the murky depths, measuring the distance to the ocean floor by dropping cannonballs tethered to twine reels. This slow mapping process -- known as sounding -- results in bathymetric charts that show the colossal mountains and deep crevices of the ocean floor, and has immediate practical benefits. For example, the transatlantic cable takes advantage of a smooth plateau on the seabed between Ireland and Newfoundland.

Finding and identifying deep-sea marine life is also a challenge. Recently, writer Jules Verne has published Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas, a novel that has France abuzz with wonder at the sharks, giant squid, whales, and other creatures he describes. Do his more fanciful beasts exist, or are they fictive? New techniques like deep sea dredging will aid in the capture and study of unknown sea creatures.

Sounding Devices Giant Squid
The Great Transatlantic Cable American Experience PBS