1040: Lakes and Oceans
|Lakes and Oceans|
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. 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 skyscraper the Burj Khalifa is also shown. 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.
Also shown are several notable bodies of water. There are the Great Lakes: Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario. Death Valley is a large, desert valley in California, named because the deadly climate and dry environment support very few life forms. 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.
In the water, the Andrea Gail was a ship that sunk in a storm in 1991, and was later eulogized with a book and film. 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 a blue whale (500 metres), and the depth a leatherback sea turtle can dive (1280 metres).
The small unlabeled mark under the "cork into a bottle" text is around 1337 metres deep.
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 depth limit of the DSV Alvin, a deep-sea vessel, 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 Marianas 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 door at the bottom of the Marianas Trench is fictional, 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.
- [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.]
|Great Slave Lake|
|Seawise Giant (largest ship ever)|
|Free-diving depth 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|
|Ohio-class nuclear sub depth limit|
|Typhoon-class nuclear sub depth limit|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|Alvin depth limit|
|David Bowie & Freddie Mercury|
|Puerto Rico Trench|
|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)|
- A print version of this comic is available in the xkcd store.
- There is no "s" in "Mariana"
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