The Least –Known Place on Earth

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
David Monahan, Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping Joint Hydrographic Center, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH, United States
The advent and application of airborne and satellite remote sensing over the last fifty years has mapped the entire sub aerial portions of the Earth to a degree that far surpasses that of the ocean-covered areas both in the number of parameters mapped and the resolution of the mapping that has been achieved. It is safe to say that the spot on the planet that mankind knows the least about is somewhere on the ocean floor. But where?  Bathymetry maps are produced from  data that  consists of active acoustic measurements  taken from surface ships at random locations with high horizontal resolution but variable redundancy combined with satellite altimetric  measurements with  low  resolution but very high redundancy. Both data sets leave large areas un-measured (more than 10% of the world ocean floor is greater than 60km from an acoustic measurement, for example) so that grids of calculated depths must be used to map  the unmeasured areas. The least known spot on earth can be calculated from degree of isolation from acoustic measurements, uncertainty in satellite altimetry and reliability of the gridding method used.


A cruise to the least known spot, collecting more types of data than  bathymetry, would add disproportionately our knowledge of the oceans and may produce other benefits by capturing the imagination of the non-scientific world.