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Oceans
The Ocean Floor



The Ocean Floor
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 8 to 9
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   7.46

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    abyss, bottomless, deep-ocean, hydrogen-sulfide, better, submersible, undersea, mid-ocean, seamounts, self-propelled, expedition, abyssal, continental, extremely, discovery, geothermal
     content words:    Challenger Deep, Galapagos Rift


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The Ocean Floor
By Sharon Fabian
  

1     In ancient times, sailors had to be very brave to sail out across the ocean in their wooden sailing ships. They knew that the ocean was dangerous. In fact, anyone who had been a sailor for a while probably knew of someone who had sailed out, never to return. What these sailors didn't know was what caused the dangers in the ocean. They didn't know what was really out there. So sailors pictured the ocean as a bottomless pit with huge, scary sea creatures living in the deep water. Adventure stories about sailors told of ships that were sunk or wrecked when a sea monster suddenly rose up through the water.
 
2     Today, we have a better picture of what it is really like under the ocean, thanks to the investigations of scientists. In 1958, an Italian-built deep-ocean submersible vehicle named Trieste was purchased by the U.S. Navy. In 1960, it reached a depth of 10,920 meters in the deepest part of the ocean, called the Challenger Deep, which is near Guam. Trieste was a self-propelled vehicle about eight meters long that held two people. Since that time, several different vehicles, both manned and unmanned, have explored the ocean depths. Thanks to these explorations, we now know much more about the ocean floor than we did just 50 years ago.
 
3     For one thing, we know that the ocean is not bottomless. The land continues to spread out past the continents, under the oceans. The continental shelf is the name for the area that is under fairly shallow water at the edges of the ocean. The continental shelf has a gradual slope and is up to 1500 kilometers wide. Once you get past the continental shelf, the land drops off much more steeply. This area is called the continental slope and is only about 20 kilometers wide. Beyond the continental slope is the abyss, the deepest part of the ocean. Although the word "abyss" means a bottomless pit, the abyss is not really bottomless, just extremely deep. The abyss has mountains, plains, and valleys much like the land above water does. Underwater mountain ranges are called mid-ocean ridges. Individual mountains or volcanoes are called seamounts. Valleys are called deep-sea trenches. And the huge flat area is called the abyssal plain.

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Oceans
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