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Home > Ocean > Ocean Zones

What are Ocean Zones?

Welcome to the realm of the deep. We're talking deep that is so far down it's hard to fathom* (where do you think the expression came from?). Deep so deep that it takes hours to free fall to the ocean bottom. Studying this inner space is truly extreme science. The oceans are WAY deeper than anything on land is high. Many people say that the ocean realm is truly the last frontier on earth. There is still much we don't know about the ocean depths that makes being a scientist in this exciting field such an adventure. New creatures are still being discovered while scientists seek to unravel some ancient mysteries.

Types of Ocean Zones

*What is a Fathom?

A fathom is a unit of length in Standard English that is used to measure ocean depths. It is approximately 6 vertical feet. To get the total depth in feet from fathoms given, just multiply by 6. For example, 500 fathoms = 500 x 6ft. = 3,000 feet.

How far is a league?

ocean zones

A league is also a unit of length (or distance) that is used to measure ocean depths. It is not used in science, but in literature. One league = 3 miles (or 4.8 km).

Scientists have organized and classified the oceans into various zones, each with its own characteristics. These zones aren't known to the creatures that live in the sea and they ignore the boundaries readily. But scientists have organized the sea into layers because the living environment generally changes with each different layer. Each layer is usually distinguished by the amount of sunlight it receives, the depths it occupies, and the degree of hydrostatic pressure found there. The easiest way to think of hydrostatic pressure in the sea is to think of the weight of a gallon of water, approximately 8.8 pounds. When you dive into a body of water and dive down, there are a lot of gallons of water over the top of you, and all together they add up to a lot of weight. The deeper you dive into the water, the more gallons (and weight) of water is over the top of you. The pressure of the weight of the overlying water is the hydrostatic pressure at that depth.

To best experience these life zones as they affect life in the sea, imagine that you are a diver for the day. Put on a diving suit and scuba gear and climb into the ocean for a descent into the sea to experience the life zones. Our first stop - the sunlight zone...

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