Oceans and Man

May 1, 1968

Report Outline
Advances in Science of Oceanography
Man's Continuing Study of the Oceans
Debate on Control of the Seabed
Special Focus

Advances in Science of Oceanography

Ocean sciences are rapidly yielding to man a knowledge of the underwater world and a technology to extract its wealth. Sea food and minerals of untold abundance are in the offing for a world half underfed and already being depleted of its land resources. The ocean depths also promise future profits to industry, and economic power to whichever maritime nations gain the lead in exploiting them.

At the same time, the very success of deep-sea exploration is creating problems. Some specialists believe more is being promised the public by some enthusiasts than can be delivered from the oceans in the near future. Covering 70 per cent of the earth with water at great depths, the oceans present a hostile environment and do not give up their riches easily. Even now, only 5 per cent of the 140-million-square-mile ocean floor has been explored—and nearly all of that in relatively shallow offshore waters.

Some of the underdeveloped nations nevertheless have expressed concern in the United Nations over the possibility that the seabed, in effect, may be colonized by maritime powers in the way Asia and Africa were colonized in the 19th century. Poor nations—about 80 of the 123 U.N. members are in that category—fear that they will be denied tomorrow's wealth if the ocean bottom is carved up through nationalistic enterprise. The tiny Mediterranean island of Malta, a member of the world body, formally asked the United Nations in 1967 to assume control of the ocean floor beyond the continental shelves and allocate to the poor countries of the world the proceeds from exploitation of its resources.

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