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Oceanic Trenches 101

Brian Barr

This blog post is the second in a series leading up to the release of Product 02: The Trench Mail Sorter. For a 10% discount visit our store page and preorder for just $27 today.

One of the perks about working for Data Design Co_ is that we tend to learn a lot while working on new products, and the Trench Mail Sorter was certainly no exception. If you're anything like we were, you probably haven't heard much about oceanography since 8th grade science class. With that in mind, here's a review of some of the basics.

What is an Oceanic Trench?

Oceanic trenches are some of the largest physical features on Earth, yet they are also some of the least well understood. They are caused when one tectonic plated is pushed underneath another tectonic plate through a process known as subduction.

Source: USGS

Source: USGS

On one side of the boundary mountains and other features are added while inside a deep trench is formed, sometimes even forming seafloor volcanoes.

Where are trenches located?

Trenches are formed at the boundary between tectonic plates. As you can see from the map below the Pacific Ocean is home to the majority of the world's major trenches as it is also home to some of the world's largest subduction zones, collectively known as the "Ring of Fire".

Source: Shorst Meyer 

Source: Shorst Meyer 

Why are they called trenches?

Trenches did not actually gain their name until the mid 1900's, when they were named after the trenches of WWI. This is largely because bathymetry (the study of underwater depths) was of little interest until the building of the Transatlantic telegraph cables. Without a clear understanding of the shape of the physical phenomenon, the areas were simply referred to as "the deep".