Explore the half of our planet covered by deep ocean and discover how our lives impact the ocean depths and marine life.

59,608 enrolled on this course

Exploring Our Ocean

Protect our blue planet and the deep sea creatures we share it with

Would you like to become an ocean explorer and investigate the underwater world existing on our planet? This 4-week course from the University of Southampton will introduce you to the ocean’s wonders.

Discover how our everyday lives are connected to the ocean depths, and learn about the challenges and opportunities that this hidden realm holds for our future.

Map the ocean floor

Understand the history of ocean exploration and start to think beyond the surface and shores. We’ll uncover the real face of our planet and learn how researchers are continuing to discover this vastly unknown entity.

You’ll learn about the beginnings of oceanography as a science and explore a recently mapped section of the sea floor. Moving on to the ocean’s composition, we’ll be thinking about ocean currents, sea temperatures and the enormous quantity of salt in the ocean.

Explore marine life such as the coral reef

In your third week, you’ll find out just how vast and varied marine life is. From the coast to polar environments and the alien world of the ocean’s depths, you’ll discover how life adapts to different habitats.

Glimpse into the diversity of life in the oceans and investigate seagrasses and coral reefs. You’ll learn how whales can be indicators of ocean health and meet creatures lurking in the darkest waters.

Understand how human behaviour impacts our oceans

Finally, we’ll think about the ocean’s future. Gain an understanding of the impact human behaviour has on the sea, including the use of single-use plastics and microbeads.

You’ll learn about the resources available to us on the ocean floor and think about current legislation surrounding the ocean. How can we protect our waters and ultimately save the ocean and its inhabitants?

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Skip to 0 minutes and 12 seconds JON COPLEY: The first astronauts to leave the Earth’s orbit saw our blue planet for the first time. But what lies in the half of our world covered by deep ocean? How do our lives affect it? And what challenges and opportunities does it hold for our future?

Skip to 0 minutes and 45 seconds Join our team of world-class researchers on a mission to explore the hidden face of our world and see our planet as never before. Our scientists at the University of Southampton are exploring the ocean from the deepest undersea vents to the chilly waters of the poles, mapping previously uncharted depths, discovering new species of marine life, and investigating the role of the oceans in how our planet works. Working with the latest underwater technology and colleagues around the world, our team are going deeper, longer, and more often than ever before. And what we now know about the ocean depths is as amazing as the unknown that still remains.

Skip to 1 minute and 27 seconds RACHEL MILLS: Ocean science is as big as the oceans themselves and crucial to our understanding of the planet. In this course, you’ll study the deep oceans, the deep unexplored vast areas of the planet that we’re only just now beginning to understand. We’ll look at the history of ocean exploration, and we’ll look at how the ocean controls the planet itself. By taking what you’ve learned and discussing it with people on the course, with your friends and family, discussing it with your employers, maybe governments, maybe charities, you can take part in a global debate about the future of our oceans and what they mean for this planet.

Skip to 2 minutes and 0 seconds The oceans control the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink. But the majority of the oceans are not controlled by any national laws. So who does own the oceans? Who owns the deep ocean resources? How are they connected to our everyday lives? And how should we be responsible for their future?

Skip to 2 minutes and 40 seconds [WAVES CRASHING]


  • Week 1

    A hidden landscape

    • Welcome to the course

      In this section you will meet our course team and other learners. We all have an important role to play in the future of our ocean and we will start by sharing what the ocean means to each of us.

    • The history of ocean exploration

      In this section you will learn about the pioneering work of the 1872-1876 HMS Challenger expedition, which established the science of Oceanography.

    • Modern exploration of the ocean

      How much of the ocean have humans explored so far? The answer might surprise you.

    • Week 1 summary

      This section is the weekly roundup. You can take a quiz to check your understanding of the topics presented this week and find links to further reading.

  • Week 2

    Mobilis in mobili

    • Our spinning planet

      The movement of ocean currents and how gyres move debris, heat and salt around the planet.

    • The composition of the ocean

      We know the sea is salty; but why? Where does that salt come from and where does it go? How much is there? Rachel and Will explain and you can attempt some calculations yourself…

    • The combined effects of heat and salt

      What effect does this have on ocean circulation?

    • Changes through time

      The oceans are constantly in motion, but continental drift and rises and falls in sea level also contribute to the changing face of our planet over millenia.

    • Week 2 summary

      This section is the weekly roundup. You can take a quiz to check your understanding of the topics presented this week and find links to further reading.

  • Week 3

    A living soup

    • One ocean, many habitats

      In this section, you will find out how the ocean waters are teeming with life.

    • Living on the edge: Coasts

      Intertidal habitats are spread across all latitudes of the globe, from the polar regions to the tropics.

    • Green marine; sea grasses

      Half of global ocean burial of carbon dioxide is performed by a thin strip of vegetated coastal plants: mangroves, saltmarshes and seagrass beds, but these precious resources are under threat.

    • Coral reefs

      Even though they cover less than 1% of the world’s ocean floor, it has been estimated that ~25 % of all marine biodiversity depends in one way or the other on the presence of coral reefs.

    • Polar environments

      The polar ocean appears barren and inhospitable at the surface, but the seafloor hosts a surprisingly diverse community of animals.

    • The Open Ocean

      To our eyes, the open ocean can look uniform, constant and even boring. But animals living there experience a changing and variable environment. The lives of many oceanic animals are characterised by movement and migration.

    • The Deep

      In this section you will meet some of the bizarre inhabitants of the deep sea underwater realm but also learn about the characteristics of the majority of its citizens; most of which aren’t quite so strange.

    • Week 3 summary

      This section is the weekly roundup. You can take a quiz to check your understanding of the topics presented this week, and find links to further reading.

  • Week 4

    The future of the ocean

    • Our impacts on the ocean

      In this section Paul reminds us that ‘out of sight’ shouldn’t be ‘out of mind’. Everything we throw away ends up somewhere and the deep ocean hasn’t escaped; it isn’t necessarily the pristine environment we think it is.

    • A plastic ocean

      Where does all of our plastic end up and what can we do about it?

    • Deep sea mining

      What resources are in the deep ocean and why are they important?

    • Ownership and responsibility

      In the previous section we looked at how we our actions have impacted on the deep oceans already, and how our lives are connected to that environment.

    • Just the beginning

      This final section is where you can reflect on your changing perception of the deep ocean, take a quiz to check your understanding of the topics presented this week.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and learn at your own pace. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

You can take this self-guided course and learn at your own pace. On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Evaluate the degree to which humans have mapped the ocean and its habitats
  • Identify key controls on seawater composition and circulation
  • Assess the distribution of salt in the ocean
  • Interpret Collector's Curves to estimate numbers of undiscovered new species
  • Explain some adaptations to life in deep ocean habitats
  • Reflect on personal effectiveness in limiting potential impacts on ocean environments

Who is the course for?

This course is for anyone interested in the ocean, the creatures that live within it and learning how we can protect it. No previous knowledge is assumed or required, so everyone is welcome to join.

What do people say about this course?

"Thank you again for that wonderful course.I am even more in love with the ocean now and would like to continue my commitment in marine conservation.I am very keen on hydrothermal vents topic and I will read more about it.Thank you also for all extraordinary additional materials like videos and articles. Cannot wait to participate in more courses like this one."

"Best course ever. I do it often but I always seem to pick up new things. Thought it was my memory, but understandable now I learn the course is regularly updated. Good choice - got to keep your *Star* in top notch condition!"

Who will you learn with?

Assoc Prof of Ocean Exploration & Public Engagement, University of Southampton

Author of "Ask an Ocean Explorer" (2019): http://bit.ly/oceanxplr

Science advisor for BBC Blue Planet II


Who developed the course?

University of Southampton

Southampton is a place for ambitious people keen to stretch their intellectual abilities and help change the world.

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