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The Ocean Floor


science that draws on the methods and knowledge of geology, chemistry, physics, and biology to study all aspects of the world ocean.


measurement of ocean depths and the charting of the shape or topography of the ocean floor.


an acronym for sound navigation and ranging. It is also referred to as echo sounding.


small underwater crafts used for deep-sea research.

Continental margin

zone of transition between a continent and the adjacent ocean basin floor.

Continental shelf

gently sloping submerged surface extending from the shoreline.

Continental slope

steep gradient that leads to the deep-ocean floor and marks the seaward edge of the continental shelf.

Submarine canyon

seaward extension of a valley that was cut on the continental shelf during a time when sea level was lower—a canyon carved into the outer continental shelf, slope, and rise by turbidity currents.

Turbidity current

the downslope movement of dense, sediment-laden water created when sand and mud on the continental shelf and slope are dislodged and thrown into suspension.

Continental rise

gently sloping surface at the base of the continental slope.

Ocean basin floor

the area of the deep-ocean floor between the continental margin and the oceanic ridge.

Abyssal plain

very level area of the deep-ocean floor, usually lying at the foot of the continental rise.


an isolated volcanic peak that rises at least 1000 meters above the deep-ocean floor, and a guyot is an eroded, submerged seamount.

Mid-ocean ridge

found near the center of most ocean basins. It is an interconnected system of underwater mountains that have developed on newly formed ocean crust.

Seafloor spreading

the process by which plate tectonics produces new oceanic lithosphere at ocean ridges.

Terrigenous sediments

consist primarily of mineral grains that were eroded from continental rocks and transported to the ocean.

Biogenous sediments

consist of shells and skeletons of marine animals and algae.

Calcareous ooze

thick, common biogenous sediment produced by dissolving calcium carbonate shells.

Siliceous ooze

biogenous sediment composed of silica-based shells of single-celled animals and algae.

Hydrothermal sediment

consists of minerals that crystallize directly from ocean water through various chemical reactions.

Gas hydrates

compact chemical structures made of water and natural gas.

Manganese nodules

hard lumps of manganese and other metals (like cobalt, copper, and iron) that precipitate around a small object.

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