Oceanography (also called oceanology or marine science) is the study of the earth's oceans and their interlinked ecosystems and chemical and physical processes. There are five major divisions within the science:

  • marine geology, including plate tectonics and other study of the ocean floor;
  • physical oceanography, which is concerned with the physical attributes of the ocean (such as its temperature-salinity structure and currents);
  • chemical oceanography (the study of the chemistry of the ocean);
  • biological oceanography (also sometimes considered a subset of marine biology), which is the study of the flora and fauna of the ocean;
  • and meteorologic oceanography, which is is concerned with how the atmosphere and the ocean interact.

The beginnings of oceanography as a science in its own right really began in 1872, when C.W. Thomson and John Murray (oceanographer) set out on the Challenger expedition (1872-76). It was around this time when assorted nations realised that (seeing as trade used the ocean quite a bit) they should invest in the study of the ocean. Various nations sent out expeditions (as did private individuals and institutions), and institutes dedicated to the study of oceanography were created. The two most well-known in the United States are the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. In Britain, a major new research institution is the Southampton Oceanography Centre.

The first international organization of oceanography was created in 1901 as the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. Later, in 1966, the U.S. Congress created the National Council for Marine Resources and Engineering Development, which was in charge of exploring and studying all aspects of Oceanography. It also enabled the National Science Foundation to give grant money to people doing studies in the field of oceanography.

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