1040: Lakes and Oceans

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Lakes and Oceans
James Cameron has said that he didn't know its song would be so beautiful. He didn't close the door in time. He's sorry.
Title text: James Cameron has said that he didn't know its song would be so beautiful. He didn't close the door in time. He's sorry.
  • See the full-size image here. (2.5MB — 2592×1728).


This comic is a scale representation of our lakes and oceans, with an emphasis on how little we know about our oceans. It shows the depths and lengths in relative scale.

The Edmund Fitzgerald was a Great Lakes freighter which sank in 1975. The Kursk (K-141) was a Russian nuclear submarine which sank in 2000 after an explosion. The RMS Lusitania was a British ocean liner which was famously sunk in 1915, eventually prompting the United States to enter World War I. All three of these ships were sunk in water that was shallower than they were long, a fun fact Randall included right below Burj Khalifa in the left part. The shortest was the Kursk, which was 154 metres long, and sank in water only 100 metres deep.

Also on the diagram is the RMS Titanic, which famously sank in 1912 after hitting an iceberg, and the Seawise Giant, which is the largest ship ever built, at 485 metres. It was scrapped in 2010. The Deepwater Horizon is an offshore oil well which made headlines after an explosion in 2010 caused the world's largest oil spill. The Andrea Gail was a ship that sunk in a storm in 1991, and was later eulogized with a book and film. The Burj Khalifa is the world's tallest manmade structure and is located in the city of Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. The Chilean mine showed on the far right is the San José Mine, which suffered a collapse in 2010, trapping 33 men 700 metres underground for 69 days. The Kola Superdeep Borehole also shown on the right was a Soviet (and later Russian) research project attempting to drill as deep into the Earth's crust as possible. It was abandoned in 2005, after reaching a record of 12,262 metres deep.

Death Valley is a large, desert valley in California, named because the deadly climate and dry environment support very few life forms. Also shown are several notable bodies of water. There are the Great Lakes: Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario. Great Slave Lake is the deepest lake in North America, and is located in the Northwest Territories, in Canada. Crater Lake is located in Oregon, and is the deepest lake in the United States. Loch Ness is the Scottish lake which is the location of the alleged "Loch Ness Monster". Lake Baikal is located in Russia, and is the world's deepest lake. On the far right side of the image is the Dead Sea, a lake near Jordan and Israel which is characterized for having such high salt levels that the waters are toxic to much marine life (hence a "dead" sea), although it does support a bacterial and algal ecosystem that is tolerant to high salt and magnesium concentrations.

Several depth limits are shown, including the free-diving record (273 metres), the scuba diving record (330 metres), the depth bike tires go flat (approximately 100 metres), the depth at which water rushes in through a hole in a scuba tank instead of air rushing out (approximately 2000 metres), the pressure that would push a cork into a bottle (approximately 250 metres), the depth that would push water up a faucet (approximately 75 metres), the depth an emperor penguin can dive (535 metres), the depth limit of an Ohio-class submarine (240 metres), the depth limit of a Typhoon-class submarine (400 metres), the depth limit of the DSV Alvin deep-sea vessel (4500 metres at the date of the comic), the depth limit of a blue whale (500 metres), and the depth a leatherback sea turtle can dive (1280 metres).

The comic also illustrates how sperm whales can dive as deep as 3000 metres (though don't frequently go deeper than 400 metres). It is presumed that they dive so deep to feed on giant squid, which can be found as deep as 3000 metres but, to our knowledge, are more commonly found in depths of 300 to 1000 metres. The fact that sperm whales can dive so deep and come up battered emphasizes Randall's point that we know so little about our oceans. Also shown are the mid-ocean ridge, an underwater mountain range which could be considered to be the largest mountain range in the world, the Puerto Rico Trench (and the included Milwaukee Deep), which is the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean, at 8648 metres, and the Mariana Trench, the deepest point of the Pacific Ocean at 10,944 metres. At the bottom of the Mariana Trench, pressure is as high as 1086 bars and life forms have been found at depths as low as 10,641 metres.

The marked abyssal plains are a deep-sea plain believed to hold a very diverse array of life forms but are largely unexplored. The stick figures of David Bowie and Freddie Mercury are a reference to Bowie's and Queen's songs "Under Pressure". The label "the abyss" with its sublabel of "it's rude to stare" is a reference to the Friedrich Nietzsche quote, "when you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back". There's also a movie from 1989 called The Abyss.

The small unlabeled mark under the "cork into a bottle" text is around 1337 metres deep.

The door at the bottom of the Mariana Trench is fictional,[citation needed] and is a reference to James Cameron's attempt to reach the bottom of the trench in his Deepsea Challenger vessel, which he filmed with 3D cameras in 2012. Randall is implying Cameron went so deep specifically to reach this door, rather than just for the sake of going.

The title text implies that James Cameron has encountered some otherworldly, Lovecraftian being behind the door at the bottom of Challenger Deep; he thought he could access it briefly, however, did not count on its hypnotic or entrancing song, which led to him leaving the door open long enough for it to enter the world and possibly precipitate some horrible calamity. This song is a reference to the sirens of Greek mythology whose singing was irresistible to sailors, who would sail toward them and crash into a rock, wrecking their ships, until Odysseus survived by having his sailors plug their ears and tie him to the mast. The concept is also a reference to the sort of horror fiction popularised by H. P. Lovecraft, often called "cosmic horror", whose stories often contain godlike alien beings that are locked away or hidden in remote places, such as Cthulhu and Azathoth. There is no specific story with a door at the bottom of the ocean containing an entity that sings entrancingly, Randall is making a clever reference to the concepts popularised by this genre as a whole. Pacific Rim, a movie depicting the Earth under the attack of gigantic alien monsters (called Kaiju) emerging from an inter-dimensional portal at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, was released in 2013. Gemini Home Entertainment, a horror anthology web series which also narrates a fictional[citation needed] tunnel at the bottom of the Mariana Trench containing a cosmic horror entity, was released in 2019.


[A Map of lakes and oceans showing the depths of various lakes and ocean attributes.]
Lakes and Oceans Depths and animal/ship/boat lengths are to scale; horizontal distance is not.
Fun Fact: The Edmund Fitzgerald, The Kursk, and The Lusitania all sank in water shallower than they were long.
[Vertical axis of depths, ranging from 1,000 m to 12,000 m.]
Edmund Fitzgerald
Lake Superior
Lake Michigan
Lake Huron
Lake Erie
Lake Ontario
Death Valley
Great Slave Lake
Crater Lake
Loch Ness
Lake Baikal
Burj Khalifa
Aircraft Carrier
Seawise Giant (largest ship ever)
Free-diving depth record
Scuba record
Andrea Gail (probably)
Bike tires go flat
Pressure at this depth would pop the cork into a champagne bottle
Pressure at this depth would force water back up a household faucet
Emperor penguin
Ohio-class nuclear sub depth limit
Typhoon-class nuclear sub depth limit
Blue whale
Leatherback turtle
Deepwater horizion
Oil well
Dead sea
Kola borehole: Soviet project to try to drill through the Earth's crust to the mantle just to see what would happen. Russians are awesome.
Chilean mine
Miner refuge
Sperm whales dive this deep. They come up covered in wounds and sucker marks, so presumably there are big squid down here? ... Man, we know nothing about the ocean.
Mid-ocean ridge
Titanic (sunk bow & stern)
At this depth, if you shoot a hole in a pressurized scuba tank, instead of air rushing out, water rushes in.
Abyssal plain
Alvin depth limit
David Bowie & Freddie Mercury
Puerto Rico Trench
Milwaukee Deep
Marianas Trench
Challenger Deep
Mysterious door which James Cameron built his sub to reach and open. He will not say what he found within.
The abyss. It's rude to stare.
Mauna Kea, Hawaii (accurate horizontal scale)
Marianas trench (accurate horizontal scale)


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I see this comic as a reminder of two things, first that we know less about the oceans then the moon and second is that what there is always more wonderful things to learn even about something that doesn't effect your daily life. - e-inspired 14:54, 27 February 2013 (UTC)

To me, the Marianas door seemed somewhat more akin to the whole Cthulhu mythos than Hogwarts, and I'm surprised no-one's already put that forward. (But then while I'm encyclopaedic about Pratchett's works (for example, even more so than Lovecraft) I can't actually recall enough of Rowling's oevre to even remember the underwater egg thing, even though I did eventually read the whole bally lot, so perhaps it's just me.) 13:28, 2 April 2013 (UTC)

^It's not just you. I know next to nothing about Lovecraft and am a diehard Harry Potter fan, and it's still obvious to me that that's more of a reference to Cthulhu than to Harry Potter. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I fully disagree, this comic contains only REAL things. This is NO horror fiction. The door at the Mariana Trench is just a simple joke. --Dgbrt (talk) 20:01, 17 January 2014 (UTC)
Title text

In the title text James Cameron is excusing about a song. Is it Celine Dion, or Enya, or what does it mean? --Dgbrt (talk) 23:20, 16 January 2014 (UTC)

It's not actually a reference to a song. Randall is implying that James Cameron encountered an otherworldly, Lovecraftian entity of some sort, and his mortal ears couldn't resist the pull of the creatures song, hence he failed to close the door in time and has possibly led to all of our deaths. 22:54, 14 March 2016 (UTC)
I thought it meant it was a beautiful (angelic?) presence he found, but he didn't close the door in time and the water rushed in and extinguished it...Mathmannix (talk) 19:43, 1 August 2019 (UTC)

Elevations above sea level mostly aren't shown. For instance, Crater Lake's surface is at 1883 m. Wwoods (talk) 18:17, 14 February 2014 (UTC)

I just added a few items that had been left off the transcript. Also I rearranged some items, according to this scheme: everything near sea level (above ~1500m down, where the Oil Well is) is now in left-to-right order, while everything below that is in top-to-bottom order. I think this makes it easier to follow. 04:13, 7 April 2014 (UTC)

Well, I _did_. But since then the transcript seems to have been reverted to a version from before my changes. Which means that the items I discovered were missing from the transcript are (again) missing.... 05:23, 21 April 2014 (UTC)
Eugh... this kind of thoughtless adminning is why I stopped caring about Wikipedia... 23:39, 14 March 2016 (UTC)

The door at the bottom of the Marianas Trench could be a reference to the podcast The Leviathan Chronicles. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

gemini home entertainment has been added :) -- 14:08, 11 March 2024 (UTC)