The Geopolitics of Deep Oceans
The Geopolitics of Deep Oceans
Like many of us, my knowledge of the deep ocean 1 came initially from the theatre of the imagination. As a child, I was enthralled by the battles against colossal squid, and other underwater creatures, waged by the mysterious Captain Nemo in Jules Verne's literary classic Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea . In the late 1950s and early 1960s, I became a devoted viewer of the popular American syndicated television series Sea Hunt , whose 155 episodes featured veteran Hollywood actor Lloyd Bridges as scuba diver Mike Nelson. Each week, Nelson performed underwater rescues, thwarted crime and located everything from a sunken freighter to submarines and satellites. In one memorable and prophetic episode, 'The Manganese Story' (aired on 4 October 1958), 'Mike discovers a manganese deposit, but an ambitious young geologist, sharks, and an approaching hurricane threaten to silence him before he can inform the government.' 2 As I will discuss in the next chapter, the search for minerals under the sea did not, in fact, get underway until a decade later, in the late 1960s; even then, manganese mining has only become commercially viable within the last decade.
As a teenager, I affixed a poster of 'the Creature from the Black Lagoon' to my bedroom wall. The creature was presented in the 1954 3-D film of the same name as a lost link between land and sea animals from the Devonian period. The 'Gill-Man', as he was also known, has since become iconic in North American popular culture, even once popping up in an episode of The Simpsons , where he emerged from Lake Springfield. More reassuringly, the Beatles sang about a romantic escape to a paradise beneath the sea where one could chill in an 'Octopus's garden in the shade'. Later on, these fictional accounts were supplemented by 'real' snippets of knowledge about the deep gleaned from National Geographic , aquarium visits and television documentaries on PBS and the Discovery Channel. These featured oddly shaped marine creatures that looked like nothing ever seen before, brightly hued corals under threat from human incursion, and deep-sea divers in steel cages being battered by bloodthirsty sharks.
Today, the ocean is on the verge of being transformed from a 'half-known life' of 'submarine aliens' (Hoare, 2013: 14-15) to an emerging focus of global attention and concern. In 2008, the United Nations General Assembly decided that, starting in 2009, 8 June would henceforth be designated by the United Nations as 'World Oceans Day'. For World Oceans Day, 2012, the Empire State Building in New York City was lit up in the evening in white, blue and purple, representing the different levels of the ocean. While 'Brangelina' (the celebrity Hollywood couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) still appear focused on human rights activism, fellow 'A-list' celebrity Leonardo DiCaprio has discovered the plight of the oceans, as well as other environmental causes such as opposition to the Alberta tar sands. 3 A diving enthusiast and environmental activist, in June 2014 DiCaprio announced a $7 million pledge at the State Department's 'Our Oceans' conservation and preservation event to fund organizations and communities that are establishing marine reserves. Decrying 'the Wild West on the high seas', DiCaprio told the gathering, 'We're plundering the ocean and its vital resources, and just because we can't see the devastation from dry land doesn't mean it's any less dangerous' (Stanek, 2014; Warren, 2014).
Perhaps even more telling was a report that same day in the Washington Post revealing that US President Barack Obama would seek to ban fishing and energy exploration in a large area of the central Pacific Ocean using his executive powers (see Chapter 4 ). 'The effects of climate change', Obama said, 'require new environmental protections' (Snyder, 2014). A month later, the Global Ocean Comm