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GEBCO Centennial Special Issue – Charting the secret world of the ocean floor: the GEBCO project 1903–2003

TitleGEBCO Centennial Special Issue – Charting the secret world of the ocean floor: the GEBCO project 1903–2003
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsHall, JK
JournalMar. Geophys. Res.Mar. Geophys. Res.Mar. Geophys. Res.
Keywordsbathymetry, gridding, mapping, satellite, seafloor mapping, world ocean floor

This special issue of Marine Geophysical Researches presents five papers dealing with GEBCO, the General Bathymetric Chart of the
Oceans, which celebrated its Centennial in April 2003, hosted by the International Hydrographic Bureau and the Principality of
Monaco. Over the past 103 years GEBCO has been the sole body dedicated to compiling all available data to produce standardized
maps of the oceans and seas covering 71% of planet Earth. Over time GEBCO has undergone a complete transformation as sparse
500 m contours on paper charts were replaced by digital grids with ever-increasing resolution. The 2003 Centennial saw the release on
two CDROMS with the first global 1¢ grid, produced by methods unheard of in 1984, when GEBCO’s last 6th Edition paper chart set
was published. In GEBCO’s second century, the thrust is towards global grids that will capture the resolutions available with evolving
deep-water swath mapping technologies, as well as vast improvement in the details of the shallow continental shelves that have
traditionally been the preserve of the hydrographic community. As little more than 10% of the oceans have been mapped to the desired
level of detail, there is much to be done. However refinements in satellite altimetry appear to offer an interim stop-gap as more multibeam
sonars ply the oceans and as the littoral countries of the world map their adjacent marine areas for submission under Article 76
of UNCLOS (United Nations, 1983, 1999). In addition GEBCO is becoming increasingly proactive, with outreach to the public via the
internet and a new GEBCO Map of the World, active data-scrounging, and encouraging development of the first drifting buoys for
acquiring data in the inaccessible areas of the Antarctic, SW Pacific, and Arctic Oceans.

Short TitleMarine Geophysical ResearchMarine Geophysical Researches
Alternate JournalMarine Geophysical Researches