What does the Ocean mean to you?

Just what does the Ocean mean to you?

For me the Ocean is my playground. It is somewhere that I love to go and enjoy my spare time and it is somewhere I want to live.

It is a method of transportation – when I sail my boat across the waters to other destinations. I love to swim in the Ocean and dive beneath the surface and exploring the other world that lies below. I enjoy catching the fish that live in the Ocean and feeding my friends and family.

The ocean is beautiful, and comes in so many different colours. It is also terrifying and furious, and has given me a hiding a few too many times.

Yes – I love and respect the ocean!

But the ocean means much more than that to our planet and the life on it.

Have you heard of MOOC’s?

MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course – basically free lectures and courses that are available for people all around the world to participate in.

I’d heard of them in a magazine article a while ago, but had never participated in one before – until now, when this one caught my eye: One Planet One Ocean.

I heard about the course through my friend Maria from Sailing Mareda. She and her partner Patrick own a Sun Odyssey 379 in France – which is exactly the boat we want to buy. I love following their blog and adventures on their beautiful boat.

Maria posted about the course on their Facebook Page and I immediately signed up as well. It started this week, and so far I am blown away by the fascinating topics.


As an avid Ocean lover, I hope to gain a deeper understanding of how the Ocean works, and influences the lives of everyone on the planet, and I thought that my blog readers, many of whom are also big Ocean fans might also be interested in participating.

I will be using this blog post to paste in all my notes from the course.

Here is the first lecture – an introduction to the course.

Here are all the topics:

1. The Ocean – Our Future

  • The Ocean MOOC
  • Our Ocean: a Finite Resource
  • Ocean Evolution
  • Human influence on the Ocean
  • The Ocean as a Common Heritage of Humankind
  • Concepts of Sustainability

This week’s lectures have been a great introduction to the diversity of the Ocean and what it means to the planet. Covering over 70% of the planet, the Ocean is a source of food, it provides oxygen, and rain, it is used by ships for transporting goods around the globe, people use the Ocean for tourism – taking holidays on beautiful beaches, we mine its resources including the sands and other minerals that it provides, the Ocean plays a huge part in the weather we experience.

The Oceans’ waters are home to a huge range of bio-diversity and ecosystems. Ranging from the sub-zero temperatures at the poles, through to the tropical waters, on the surface and around coastlines and in the deep oceans.

In turn for all it provides us, humans continue to use the Ocean as a dumping ground. Both deliberately and inadvertently. Overfishing is a huge problem, as is global warming and the potential sea-level rise that will effect millions of people that live around coastal areas.

But who manages the ocean? Is there enough Governance surrounding our use of its resources?

One of the lectures was a fantastic explanation of global warming and the consequences for the planet. The lecturer gave a concise explanation of the history of global warming, its causes and effects. Scary stuff.

2. Ocean Circulation and Physics

  • Drivers of Ocean Currents
  • Changes in Ocean Circulation
  • Ocean Heat Storage and Sea Level
  • Water Cycles and Salinity
  • Ocean Prediction

This week I learnt that the seas saltiness comes from all the minerals being washed off the land and in to the sea. The salinity of the ocean differs around the world, but in general it is 32 parts salt per thousand parts of water. Drinking water has less than 1 part of salt per thousand.

I also learnt more about the currents, how they are formed and that the sea level is rising at different rates around the globe.


3. Drivers of Life in the Ocean

  • Marine Elemental Cycles
  • Dance of the Plankton
  • The Ocean’s Biological Pump
  • Ocean Change: a Mix of Interacting Stressors
  • Climate Engineering: No Easy Fix

I learnt about the critical importance of plankton on life on earth, and more about the stress that humans are putting on our environment. It was interesting to learn more about some of the plans that scientists have to give the ocean a helping hand to turn around these negative effects.

Seth and I also participated in a river clean up which was being run by the local community around all the waterways in our city. Collectively the effort removed over two tonnes of rubbish that would have otherwise ended up in the ocean.


4. Ocean Ecosystem

  • Marine Food Chains
  • Evolution and Marine Biodiversity
  • Resilience and Adaptation in the Ocean
  • Alien Species Migrations and Range Shifts
  • Marine Ecosystem Change and Services

This was a fascinating topic. Leaning about the marine food webs, how life on earth evolved from billions of years ago from simple single cell algae, and through until now. There is an incredible array of life in the ocean and many of the species have not yet been discovered and studied. However pressures from humans are tipping the scales on these sensitive ecosystems. Be it from over-fishing, pollution, sea temperatures rising, and the introduction of invasive species transported around the world in ships ballast tanks.

The concept of ecological economics is completely new to me. Putting a $ value on the Ocean in terms of the goods and services it provides to humans!  From food to other materials like sand for construction, cleaning services – the mangrove and sea grasses providing filtration of toxins, the absorption of CO2 gasses slowing the greenhouse effect, generating oxygen, and then through to tourism. Do governments really need a figure to quantify the importance of why protecting this critical resource? In my mind, the ocean is priceless.

This week I also went to the art exhibition Vertigo Sea. A confronting movie showing the relationship of humans and the ocean. A short taste of the 50 minute three screen movie can be found here:

5. The Deep Sea

  • Seafloor Dynamics and Plate Tectonics
  • Threats from the Sea Bed
  • Submarine Landslides and Tsunamis
  • Seafloor Resources: Energy and Minerals
  • Life in the Deep-Sea
  • Ocean Exploration

This was an interesting topic, and I learned about the way that fish living in the deep sea have adapted to life without light and under so much pressure. I learned more about what is happening under the sea in terms of the plate movements, underwater volcanoes and landslides which can cause destructive tsunamis. There are also some interesting minerals on the sea floor which are of course difficult to access but a rich resource. However this is a sensitive almost untouched ecosystem, and it would be a shame to potentially destroy this as the quest for more human development on land puts our above water mines under pressure.


6. Human – Ocean Interactions

  • Values and Attitudes to the Ocean
  • The Ocean through History
  • Cultural Perspectives
  • From Attitude to Action
  • Regional Voices

This week focused on cultural expectations on the Ocean, how our attitudes have changed throughout history and the how humans have been using the ocean for fishing and transport for thousands of years. Culture has a big part to play in regards to how people interact with the Ocean in terms of fishing and polluting.

7. Ocean Governance

  • Governing Global Commons
  • The Law of the Sea’s Conceptual Framework
  • Governing Ocean Pollution
  • Governing Marine Biodiversity
  • Governing Ocean Shipping

Ocean governance is very complicated. The UN has got various governance strategies including laws relating to shipping, collision regulations and pollution etc. However each country is then left to govern their own exclusive economic zones around their coastlines. But if you are in the middle of the ocean and notice a ship throwing toxic waste in to the ocean, who do you call? There are no police in the Ocean. To gain a consensus of all the countries in the world to agree on various laws in regards to fishing, and polluting the ocean would be extremely difficult.

8. Ocean Wealth and Sustainability

  • Economic Models for Sustainability
  • Fisheries Economics and Management
  • Aquaculture and Mariculture
  • Non-renewable Ocean Resources: From Exploration to Exploitation?
  • Valuing Ocean Assets

The present fishing rates are not sustainable. Some countries even subsidise fishermen, incentivising them to fish more – further reducing an already pressured fishery. Even aquaculture which I initially thought as of being a sustainable way of fishing – is actually not sustainable if you consider it from a bigger point of view. Many more tonnes of smaller fishmeal is required to feed these fish than is actually produced – meaning that we are actually going backwards .


9. Coastal Change

  • Coastal Systems: Physical and Socioeconomic Dimensions
  • Coastal Ecosystems
  • Coastal Hazards
  • Deltas under Pressure
  • Future Coasts

10. Ocean Solutions

  • From Ocean Science to Ocean Sustainable Development
  • Ecosystem and Nutrient Management
  • Climate Engineering
  • Sub-Seafloor CO2 Storage
  • Sustainable Energy from the Ocean
  • Marine Spatial Planning
  • Marine Protected Areas in the Open Ocean: The Implementation Agreement
  • Coastal Solutions: Ecosystem-Based Management
  • Sustainable Management of Fisheries
  • Ocean Literacy

You can participate as well – just click this link to join Maria and I learning more about the Ocean – a place we love.


13 thoughts on “What does the Ocean mean to you?

  1. Thanks for the link Viki. I am going to join! We call our planet Earth, but really we should be calling it Ocean! I have been concerned about changes we have noticed particularly while sailing, and their impact in the long term. So this course comes just at the right time for me. I want to understand more… I just hope I find the time to do this justice…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great! Same here re the time… There are just so many aspects of the ocean that I hadn’t even considered. It will be interesting to get a greater understanding of how it all links together. I look forward to sharing my learnings with you! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. great post and info! Have briefly checked the link and will very likely sign up as well. Is it really Kiel University involved in this? It’s only an hours drive from here, guess I could pay them a visit in the real world as well…


  3. Another great post Viki. Thanks for the link to MOOC – I’m joining. Check out the vid I just uploaded of our trip to Whitehaven beach last year. Amazing place and it proves we can do this. Thousands of tourists go there every day and its so pristine.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Vertigo Sea | Astrolabe Sailing

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  6. Hey Viki ! I’m very slow but THANKS for the shout-out and I’m so glad you enjoyed the course. I have some fantastic oceanography colleagues in New Zealand – I’ll send you their contact information and maybe you can find out if / how sailors can help NZ oceanographers locally.


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