The hidden marks left by a man in the deepest of the ocean
A recent BBC report revealed that the bottom of the Pacific Ocean has a range of intrinsically curious marks on its bed. For the scientists, the characters in question could never have been caused by an animal.
The signs, visible only when illuminated by reflectors from submersible vehicles, which are operated remotely, have been in the same location for decades and researchers believe there is nothing that can turn them off.
The trail that appears in the image above, for example, has been around for over 37 years. Basically, it dates back to the 1970s and 1980s, a period in which the first attempts at mining on the high seas were made.
In the past few days, scientists have reassessed the site. The purpose of the expedition was to find out what happened to the ecosystems in the area. Recent analyzes show that what the researchers find are wounds that will never heal.
To better understand the whole scenario and understand why these brands are significant, we need to go back in time.
We started by placing on the agenda the famous polymetallic nodule – fragments that are lost in the middle of the seabed and that, through a slow natural chemical process, are converted into minerals.
These polymetallic nodules, although undergoing a process of millions of years to grow, are so abundant that they cover large areas of the ocean’s abyssal plain.
These deposits of iron, copper, and rare elements were discovered in 1873, during a voyage by the HMS Challenger, a ship of the British Royal Navy. The expedition chemist was one of the first crew members to notice that the nodules were not insignificant.
The real importance of nodules came in handy years later when scientists would discover that these tiny fragments of minerals are like islands for some forms of life, offering a rare and firm surface for life, say, to cling to.
“They are like rocky areas in a garden – you will have more species living there than if you only had land,” says Daniel Jones of the National Oceanography Center in Southampton, the UK, which studies the effects of human interventions on life marine.
Over time, these also ended up adding immense value to human beings.
To Advance more technological race. Which, in fact, never stops advancing, it is necessary to meet a demand for raw materials, such as the constant acquisition of cobalt, commonly used in the production of lithium-ion batteries for cars and electronic devices.
The material, today, unfortunately, comes from problematic sources. According to the BBC, the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, extracts more than 60% of the world’s supply of cobalt from landmines.
The problem, in addition to the excessive removal of material, also involves mining activities in the country, which is always closely linked to human rights abuses and child labor.
Because of this reality, ocean nodules are being increasingly targeted, so much so that, as the BBC points out, companies are looking not only for new ways of extracting the material but also for recent locations – although, for decades, the exploration of the material has been considered not profitable.
As the technological race cannot stop and meet demand in a market such as this one is paramount, several mining organizations are joining forces to remove the nodules.
If mining companies win the right, hundreds of square kilometers will be dredged each year.
As we said throughout the article, between 1970 and 1980, both researchers and mining companies evaluated the feasibility and environmental consequences that would be caused in the ocean with the practice of mining. At the time, according to the BBC, “ships dragged specialized metal plows and rakes over the Pacific bed to collect the nodules and bring them to the surface.”
Even though the analyzes do not precisely simulate the dredging machinery needed for the installation of future mines, the effects of this partnership offered some evidence. The main one is that, even after decades, life in these trenches where studies have been carried out to analyze the impacts of mining has not yet returned to normal.
For researchers, life here on land “tends to spring up in the plowed cavities of a field, but in the depths of the sea, the trenches are relatively sterile.” This is because the creatures that depended on the nodules to survive can no longer recolonize with their elimination.
“The communities of these nodules on the abyssal plains will be especially vulnerable to the risk of extinction caused by efforts to extract them,” concluded Lara Macheriotou from Ghent University, Belgium.
According to scientists, such effects are likely to last for hundreds or even thousands of years.