A History Of Marine Science Essay, Research Paper
Sept. 09, 2000
Ch.2 A History of Marine Science
The early history of marine science started about 11,000 years ago. Nomads began voyaging into east and central Europe, and across the plains of central Asia. They journeyed to the shores of northeastern Asia and crossed the Bering Sea into North America and South America. Most traveled on foot except for those who were talented in raft building or navigation. Any coastal culture with these talents had big economical advantages and greater access to food or supplies. But when European explorers set out to find the world, they were met by islanders at almost every chunk of land they found.
The first evidence of voyaging comes from records of trade in the Mediterranean Sea. The Greeks started to explore outside the Mediterranean and into the Atlantic Ocean around 900-700 b.c. The Greeks thought the ocean was a huge river because they noticed currents that ran from north to south. The Phoenicians were also native to theses waters but chose not to venture out of sight of land. Smart sailors started recording the location of rocks, landmarks, and the direction of currents to make their voyages safer.
These first chart makers were Mediterranean traders.
These were not the only cultures doing their homework at the time. The Chinese began to engineer an extensive system of inland waterways, some of which connected to the Pacific Ocean to make transport of goods easier. The Polynesian people were moving along the islands off the coast of Southeast Asia and Indonesia for years and began to
settle the mid-pacific islands. These early explorers were able to tell direction by the stars and sun. They spread from island to island until the big and accessible islands had been colonized. This resulted in overpopulation and depletion of resources. Groups of people scattered in every direction including Hawaii. The Hawaiian Islands are 2,000 miles from any significant island, making that a life-threatening journey. These lucky pioneers colonized Hawaii some time between 450 and 650 a.d. Within a hundred years of their arrival, they were directing large vessels on regular return trips to the Marquesas and the Society Islands.
Progress in ocean science began at the Library of Alexandria in Egypt. Alexander the Great founded it in the third century. It was known as the first university in the world. When any ship entered the harbor, the books it contained were legally removed and brought to the Library to be copied. The characteristics of nations, trade, natural wonders, artistic achievements, tourist sights, and other items of interest were catalogued and filed. For 600 hundred years, it was the greatest and most influential institution of learning in the world. One of the librarians was Eratosthenes of Cyrene. He was the first to calculate the circumference of the earth. Celestial Navigation was discovered here and latitude and longitude were invented by Eratosthenes. The last librarian at Alexandria was a woman named Hypathia. A mob severely killed her and burned the Library down with all of its contents in A.D.415. The academic loss was incalculable; we will never know the true extent and influence of its collection of over 700,000 irreplaceable scrolls.
On the other side of the globe, the Vikings were over powering every colony they came in contact on their way down the coast of Europe. As the French, Irish, and British
defenses became stronger the Vikings traveled west to Iceland and Greenland. Years later Prince Henry started the study of marine science and navigation at Sagres. Henry ventured south into the undiscovered and opened the west coast of Africa to commerce. His crew used the compass. Another great mariner was Christopher Columbus. He was familiar with Henry?s work and knew the earth was spherical. He set out to discover the new world and confused it to be India or Japan. Other adventurers quickly followed, and Columbus?s error was soon corrected. James Cook, a skillful navigator verified calculations of planetary orbits. He and his men found New Zealand and charted Australia?s Great Barrier Reef. They made notes of history and recorded vital info. He was the first to circumnavigate the world at high altitude. Cook charted Tonga and Easter Islands and later, the west coast of North America. On his last journey he departed a dinner with the chief of Hawaii. He or his crew somehow angered the Hawaiians and were attacked by the crowd. Cook was killed amongst others. He is remembered as an outstanding navigator and his charts were so great that they used them in World War 2.
In 1838 the United States Exploring Expedition was launched. The work aboard the ship Vincennes and the expedition?s five other vessels helped establish the natural sciences as good professions in America. They left for four years with goals of mineral gathering, charting the east Antarctic coast, and pure exploration. The crew was lead by Lt. Charles Wilkes. The men returned with many specimens and artifacts, which formed
the newly established Smithsonian Institute in D.C. Wilkes prepared a final report totaling 19 volumes of maps, text, and illustrations. His report is a landmark in the history of scientific achievement.
At about the time Wilkes returned from sea, Matthew Maury became interested in learning more about winds and currents. Maury was the first person to sense the worldwide pattern of surface winds and currents. He created shorter routes to numerous locations saving as much as 20 days of sailing. He is considered by many to be the father of physical oceanography.
On December 21, the HMS Challenger set sail on a four-year journey to discover the life and death in the depths of the ocean. Scientists took salinity, temperature, and water density measurements during these soundings. Each reading contributed to a growing picture of the physical shape of the ocean floor.
In the United States, the three outstanding oceanographic institutes are the Woods Hole Institute on Cape Cod, founded in 1930. Here they established the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries in 1971. Next was the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, founded in La Jolla, California. This institute started as a laboratory in a tent until founded by William Ritter. Last was the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, founded in 1949.
NASA has also become an important contributor to marine science. For four months in 1978, NASA?S Seasat, the first oceanographic satellite, beamed oceanographic data to Earth. These same satellites are now able to determine wave height, variations in the seas contour and temperature, and other important marine info.
Oceanography, third edition, Tom Garrison