Google Earth kmz file created by John Guinotte, Marine Conservation Biology Institute, john @mcbi.org
Few of us realize it, but by one definition of what constitutes the United States, more of our nation is under water than on land! Some 4.4 million square miles of ocean floor lies within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) over which we claim jurisdiction and resources. That’s compared to 3.6 million square miles of land. Our list of America’s extraordinary places would likely include the Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone's geysers, the ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest, and Hawaii's volcanoes. Yet equally magnificent places exist beneath the waves: the rich fishing grounds of Georges Bank, the teeming depths of Monterey Canyon, the Gulf of Alaska's volcanic seamounts, or the Mariana Trench, Earth’s deepest point.
America's ocean realm is a rich mosaic of places from icy fjords to tropical coral reefs, from sunlit shallows to lightless depths. These marine ecosystems are habitats for seaweeds, snails, octopuses, fishes and whales, and places where people sail, surf, snorkel, fish, and extract oil. They are essential to our well-being. No nation governs a larger or more diverse ocean area. Explore with us a submarine trench that plummets nearly seven miles down, ocean currents that move tousands of times more water than the Mississippi River, a frozen sea that's home to imperiled polar bears, and beautiful deep-sea coral forests that scientists discovered only in the 1990s.