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anarhichas_pairThe deep sea is a fascinating environment - far from the reaches of human eyes and even light, mysterious creatures make their home amongst bizarre seascapes formed by the most amazing and unimaginable natural processes. Our oceans hide a wealth of secrets, only now accessible by using highly sophisticated technology to peer into the depths.

The human race holds a long-term fascination with the Earth's oceans, and rightly so: we rely on them for some of the most basic commodities in life such as food and fuel, and many billions of people take advantage of the oceans to earn a living or for relaxation. Our oceans are essential in the processes that regulate our climate and produce the air we breathe. But beyond the coastline, what do we really know about the oceans? For the vast majority of people, the portion of the sea beyond swimming distance from the beach is something of a mystery, and even the pioneers of marine discovery have only so far only explored a tiny portion of the world's oceans in detail.

lithodes_lopheliaIn Europe, the deep ocean (where the water is more than 200 m deep) stretches over 15,000 km from the Arctic in the far north down to Gibraltar at the entrance to the Mediterranean, and then eastwards across the Mediterranean to the Black Sea. The deep-ocean margin - the area of seafloor from the continental shelf edge at about 200m water depth down to around 4000 m depth where the deep-ocean basins begin - covers an area of around 3 million km2, an area about one third of that covered by Europe's landmass. Within this vast area, there is a myriad of habitats, seascapes and ecosystems of breathtaking beauty that marine scientists are only just beginning to understand. 

Find out more about this amazing part of our planet by using the links on this page. If you are inspired to become a marine scientist, don't miss our scientist profiles  and the expedition blogs sent from our HERMIONE research expeditions!