Wonder and mystery
The planet is almost 40,000 kilometres around and 4.54 billion years old, and humans are still discovering some of the amazing secrets it’s hiding.
Stories about giant waves have been circulating among sailors for centuries, but sceptical scientists thought they were about as common as mermaids. Then, in 1995, an oil platform in the North Sea was hit by a big one during a huge storm, and it had the equipment on hand to determine that the wave had been a massive 25.5 metres tall. A few years later, a 29-metre wave was measured by a research vessel west of Scotland. Oceanographers realized that not only were these massive waves real, they were surprisingly common. According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, rogue waves are more than twice the size of surrounding waves (often getting as big as 30 metres tall), come from surprising directions, and only happen in open seas. Find out the 13 coolest scientific discoveries of last year.
Underwater mountain range
Rogue waves aren’t the only giant secret the oceans have been keeping – the longest mountain range in the world is actually underwater. It’s called the Mid-Ocean Ridge, and it extends more than 64,000 kilometres, running down the middle of the Atlantic, east through the Indian Ocean, and back up through the Pacific, along the west coast of the Americas. (Compare that with the Andes, the longest continental mountain range, which is only 7,000 kilometres long!) The Mid-Ocean Ridge is a continuous string of underwater volcanoes lying along the meeting points of Earth’s tectonic plate – as the plates drift apart, magma seeps up continuously, creating new crust. Check out these 15 scientific mysteries boffins can’t figure out.