You know the old saying that we know more about the surface of the Earth’s moon and planet Mars than the Earth’s ocean floor? Well, the latter is slowly but surely getting mapped.

Scientists now have enough data to map 15 percent of the ocean floor, according to the Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project.

SeaBed 2030 is an effort to map the entire ocean floor by 2030. GEBCO is the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans.

So far, about 32 million square kilometers (12.3 million square miles) of the ocean floor have been mapped. This is an area larger than Africa.

Late last month, alumni from the Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Postgraduate Training Program won a US$4 million (3.5 million Euro) Shell Ocean Discovery “XPRIZE” for developing technology to better map the world’s oceans.

The team’s entry into the competition was funded by The Nippon Foundation, a Japanese private non-profit organisation, and utilized the SEA-KIT Uncrewed Surface Vessel (USV) Maxlimer, alongside the Kongsberg Maritime HUGIN Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) System.

The team’s concept for efficient, safe and cost-effective seafloor mapping was based around the Kongsberg Maritime HUGIN AUV, rated to operate at depths of up to 4,500 meters (14,763 feet), supported by the SEA-KIT USV, which has the ability to autonomously launch and recover the AUV and acts as a communication link during subsea survey operations.

The Nippon Foundation will reinvest the prize money into the development of future ocean mapping initiatives.

For more info about Seabed 2030, go to seabed2030.gebco.net or check out the video below.

(Image credit: GEBCO)

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