Every once in a while, I find my mind gravitating toward the ocean. I cannot escape its seduction, its vast secret store of surprises. Just a few months ago, I remember spending a day reading about and marveling at how many free divers have died in their efforts reach the limits of human tolerance of the pressures of depth and the absence of oxygen.

Sunlight dives only one thousand meters into the ocean before it succumbs to the power of darkness. And that is only a fraction of the depth of the deepest part, the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean, which is roughly eleven thousand meters (6.8 miles or 36,000 feet to those of us who are metrically challenged). Xenophyophores, which are giant multinucleate single celled organisms, have been found at depths of up to 6.6 miles. These single-celled creatures can be as large as twenty centimeters (almost eight inches) across. They are the largest single-cells known to humankind. About sixty species of xenophyophores have been identified.

I skimmed an article about the depth of the Mariana Trench this morning. That chance encounter with the article led me to hopscotch across several other topics. Among them: the intensity of water pressure at such depths; the manner in which creatures living so far beneath the surface of the ocean get nourishment (xenophyophores seem to feed like amoebas, surrounding their food); and the functions various forms of sea life perform in the ocean ecosystem. I learned quite a bit about

We know so very little about this planet. Delving into how much we do not know is staggering.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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