Exploration at sea

Once at sea the science work can begin.  Different scientists will be interested in different areas of the sea; geoscientists are generally interested in the ocean floor, bio-geochemists may investigate the water column and the ecosystems that support marine life, while physicists and climate modellers tend to focus on the surface and above.  No matter the area of study a scientist requires the correct equipment to perform an investigation.

  • Ocean Floor

    The bottom of a body of water is known as the benthic zone, regardless of how deep it occurs.  In coastal waters the sea floor sits upon the continental shelf and is generally less than 200m deep.  The majority of the ocean floor lies upon the ocean crust and is between 4000m to 6000m deep.  Working at such depths requires specialist tools and skills to obtain the data needed.

    Read more about how we explore the ocean floor

  • Water Column

    The water column extends from the top of the surface to the bottom of the floor.  When studying the ocean, the depth of the water column can be a great as 11km!  That is even taller than Mount Everest - the highest point on Earth.  Scientists describe the water column by dividing it into layers that have certain features.

    Read more about how we explore the water column

  • Marine Life

    The oceans contain an amazing variety of life, from the tiniest - Femtoplankton, to the largest - Blue Whale. Marine life can be found in some extreme environments; in water temperatures higher than a 100ºC and lower than 0ºC. In the deepest parts life still exists; living under pressure that is as great as 1.1 tonnes per square centimetre (8 tons per square inch or 1079 bar), that’s over thousand times greater than it is at the surface.

    Read more about how we explore marine life

  • Surface and above

    The surface of the sea can be considered anything from the first millimetre to tens of meters deep depending on what is being looked at.  Scientists who want to know about the surface of the ocean might be interested in what it can tell us about weather and climate processes, or how the air and sea affect each other. Environmental conditions also affect ecosystems, coastal erosion and other areas, so are important to many scientists.

    Read more about how we explore the surface and above

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Information for…


The outputs of research generate new knowledge about the oceans. Transferring scientific knowledge to support business and industry is an important part of our NOC remit.



Our research is intended to tackle the big environmental issues facing the world. Research priorities will include the oceans' role in climate change, sea level change and the future of the Arctic Ocean.



The University of Southampton and the University of Liverpool both offer a range of highly regarded undergraduate and post-graduate degrees in Ocean and Earth Science.



For any media or press enquiries to the National Oceanography Centre follow the more link below. Please note the centre's press office is staffed from 0830 to 1730, Monday to Friday.



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Delivery Partners

Delivery Partners helping to provide marine science national capability.


Marine Science Community

The creation of a wider association of Universities and research institutions to support wider engagement of the NOC with the marine science community is now underway.



The National Oceanographic Library is a national resource for the UK marine science community.


Principal scientists

All updated information for cruise participants can be found using the Marine Facilities Planning website: