Oceanography: Exploring Earth's Final Wilderness

Rated 5 out of 5 by from A great course This is the best course I've seen in a long time. I want to share it with my friends.
Date published: 2020-11-12
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Worthwhile, but dull lecturer I’m completely new to this subject, but was curious. What I look for in a lecturer is content. Style is a bonus. If I were not interested in or curious about the material on some level, I would not take the course. So I don’t depend on the lecturer to create my interest. It’s already there. But if you don’t have the interest or curiosity to begin with, don’t expect Professor Tobin to provide it. He is earnest and knows his material. But he is not a dynamic lecturer. In fact, to be plain, he’s rather dull. He mostly uses a monotone. He sometimes stumbles transitioning from one topic to another or searching for the right word or phrase, and is very fond of the filler “well.” He also contradicts himself. On p. 250 of the Guidebook, he tells us that Northern Hemisphere tropical cyclones rotate clockwise, then three sentences later he tells us they rotate counterclockwise. This tracks the oral lecture, so he doesn’t seem to be listening to himself. There is also annoying sloppy Guidebook editing, of which I could give several examples. Here’s one. In the same lecture, at p. 248, the Guidebook says that cyclones can form “between 2 different air masses or at the boundaries between different air masses.” The second “between” should be “within,” as the lecture makes clear. I enjoy learning things, and for that reason I enjoyed the course. But because of the lecturer and the sloppy guidebook, I can give it only three stars and a qualified recommendation.
Date published: 2020-11-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from coprehensisve overview This is a comprehensive over view of oceanography. Prof.Tobin uses clear understandable language and defines special terms whenever used. He speaks with energy that shows his enthusiasm for the subject. I would definitely recommend this course as a good starting point. The video protion of the course is extremely well done.
Date published: 2020-03-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding & Informative Great instructor, and the material was well laid out and interesting
Date published: 2020-01-23
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Big on science ... Short on visuals This is the first course I was disappointed with, hoping for a visually exciting course which, I must state, this is not. The professor clearly knows the material and presents it well but the emphasis is on the science and scientific terms of the ocean and is overwhelming and, frankly, a bit dry. Yes, I did learn more than I expected but am having trouble finishing the course ( which is a first for me with course from the Great Coures). Unless you want to understand the science of the ocean in depth (no pun intended) this course is not for you.
Date published: 2019-03-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Answers a lot of questions. At the end of each chapter I want to keep going. I have questions that I can't wait to get answered in future chapters.
Date published: 2019-03-08
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Very poor speaker The content of the course is fascinating, but the professor is a poor speaker. Multiple times in every single lecture he says "things like that" or "you know." No I don't know; that's why I watching the course. Many of the graphs seem to be taken straight from publications are are nearly impossible to read on a TV screen. Moreover the professor does not point to what is pertinent on the graphs, or on diagrams, frequently. He also makes several incorrect statements. In lecture 32 he says that an example of Doppler shift is when train sounds louder when it approaches and softer after it passes by. No, it is the frequency of the sound that changes not the amplitude. He says something about a position a few "knots" away from the Gulf Stream. Anyone who has been to sea ought to know that a knot is a unit of speed, not of distance. There is an extremely annoying hi-ptiched sound every time a word appears on the screen.
Date published: 2018-09-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good solid course on the oceans I bought this course because I live near the ocean, always have, yet did not have a lot of in depth knowledge about this massive subject. This course had a lot of straightforward, good knowledge presented in an engaging manner. Professor Tobin was easy to watch and this course was not dry. I would suggest pairing this course with TGC's recent new offering on Life in the World's Oceans - watch this one first, as it has more in depth information on the ocean's and the other course focuses on the micro subject of animal/plant life in the oceans, with some amazing footage from the Smithsonian. The background you get in this course makes you enjoy the course on Life in the World's Oceans even more.
Date published: 2018-08-27
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Oceanography: Exploring Earth's Final Wilderness
Course Trailer
Diving In-The Ocean Adventure
1: Diving In-The Ocean Adventure

Begin your study of the ocean from every angle, examining Earth's watery realm in light of geology, biology, chemistry, meteorology, and other fields. In this lecture, survey the extent of the ocean and the approaches that oceanographers take to understanding it.

31 min
Explorers, Navigators, Pioneering Scientists
2: Explorers, Navigators, Pioneering Scientists

The early explorers of the ocean were interested in charting its islands, dimensions, and resources-and in using it as a highway for trade. Relive the exploits of these mariners, who included Europeans, Chinese, and Polynesians. Only later did scientific exploration of the ocean begin.

33 min
Ocean Basics and Ocean Basins
3: Ocean Basics and Ocean Basins

As recently as the 1950s, geologists envisioned the ocean basins as a submerged version of the continents. Explore the topography of the seabed, discovering that it is shaped by geological forces fundamentally different from those on land.

32 min
Mapping the Sea-Soundings to Satellites
4: Mapping the Sea-Soundings to Satellites

The ocean floor was once as mysterious as the surface of another planet. Investigate the technologies involved in measuring bathymetry, the undersea counterpart of topography. Weighted ropes and cables for gauging the depth of the sea have given way to sophisticated sonar from ships and radar from satellites.

34 min
Habitats-Sunlit Shelves to the Dark Abyss
5: Habitats-Sunlit Shelves to the Dark Abyss

Take a tour of organisms that live from the shallows to the ocean floor. Learn how to classify ocean zones, and discover the importance of temperature, chemistry, nutrients, light, and other factors for different life forms-from active swimmers to passive floaters and bottom dwellers.

32 min
The Spreading Sea Floor and Mid-Ocean Ridges
6: The Spreading Sea Floor and Mid-Ocean Ridges

What made the ocean floor the way it is? Trace the evidence that ocean basins are geologically young and that new oceanic crust is being continually formed at mid-ocean ridges, pushing and rifting continental plates in a process called plate tectonics.

33 min
The Plunging Sea Floor and Deep-Sea Trenches
7: The Plunging Sea Floor and Deep-Sea Trenches

Investigate subduction zones, where oceanic crust plunges beneath an overriding tectonic plate. These margins are associated with deep-sea trenches, earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes. Examine other features, such as hotspots, which are a mid-plate phenomenon that includes the Hawaiian Islands chain.

32 min
The Formation of the Earth and Its Ocean
8: The Formation of the Earth and Its Ocean

Cover 9 billion years of cosmic history-from the big bang, to the accretion of the sun and planets, to the formation of Earth's oceans 4 billion years ago. The water in the oceans came from water vapor in volcanic eruptions and possibly from comet impacts.

30 min
The Early Ocean and the Origins of Life
9: The Early Ocean and the Origins of Life

Explore scenarios for the origin of life, which may have begun around deep-sea hot springs. The oceans have maintained roughly the same conditions over the entire history of life on Earth, even though the sea floor has renewed itself many times over through plate tectonics.

34 min
Marine Sediments-Archives of the Ocean
10: Marine Sediments-Archives of the Ocean

Ocean sediments are like tree rings that can be "read" as a history of the ocean and climate through time. Investigate the different sources of sediments, which range from products of erosion on land, to the remains of sea creatures, to ejecta from asteroid impacts.

31 min
Offshore Oil and Gas-Resources and Risks
11: Offshore Oil and Gas-Resources and Risks

Learn the origin of petroleum and natural gas deposits, which formed under very specific conditions in marine sediments. As an example of the challenges of oil recovery, survey the technology of deep-water drilling, focusing on the disastrous blow-out in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

34 min
The Enduring Chemistry of Seawater
12: The Enduring Chemistry of Seawater

Why is the sea salty? Why isn't it getting saltier? Probe these and other mysteries of ocean chemistry, looking at the remarkable stability and uniformity of seawater over time. Also study the role of water and the conjectured role of life in driving plate tectonics.

30 min
How the Physics of Water Controls the Ocean
13: How the Physics of Water Controls the Ocean

Analyze the surprising properties that keep the ocean liquid and make water the defining physical substance for life. Among them is its ability to retain heat, which has kept Earth in a narrow temperature range hospitable to life for billions of years. Also investigate the propagation of light in water and why the ocean is blue.

32 min
Waves-Motion in the Ocean
14: Waves-Motion in the Ocean

Chart the dynamics of wind-generated waves, which include almost all ocean waves. See how they form, grow in size, travel for thousands of miles, and then break on shore. The big waves preferred by surfers come from remote regions that have the ocean's stormiest weather.

30 min
Rogue Waves and Tsunami
15: Rogue Waves and Tsunami

Long considered a mariners' tall tale, abnormally high "rogue" waves are now well documented. Understand the physics of why they form and the yearly toll they take on shipping. Then study tsunami, or seismic sea waves, which are generated when undersea earthquakes displace huge volumes of water, often with catastrophic results.

32 min
Tides in Theory and Practice
16: Tides in Theory and Practice

Tides are caused by the gravitational attraction of the moon and, to a lesser extent, the sun. Learn that the timing and height of tides are far more complex than the daily motions of the moon and sun suggest-due to the influences of coastal features, the Coriolis effect, and other factors.

30 min
Marine Life, Energy, and Food Webs
17: Marine Life, Energy, and Food Webs

Trace the path of energy and food through oceanic ecosystems, which have a far higher turnover of biomass than the terrestrial equivalents. As a result, most of what grows in the oceans is very quickly consumed. Learn why warm, temperate seas are often nutrient-poor compared with polar waters.

34 min
Tiny Plankton-The Most Abundant Life on Earth
18: Tiny Plankton-The Most Abundant Life on Earth

Survey some of the many species of plankton, which are passive, floating, and drifting organisms. Microscopic plankton are ubiquitous throughout the oceans and represent all three of the basic biological domains: Archaea, Bacteria, and Eukarya.

31 min
Soft-Bodied Life in the Dark, Open Depths
19: Soft-Bodied Life in the Dark, Open Depths

Investigate the soft-bodied organisms that live at great depths and have no skeletons or shells. Little known until recently, this group includes a variety of creatures whose amorphous bodies are often destroyed by nets and who only came to light through studies from submersibles.

33 min
Swimming-The Many Fish in the Sea
20: Swimming-The Many Fish in the Sea

Contrasting with free-floating plankton, nekton are the ocean's swimmers. In this lecture, study the most numerous nekton-fish-focusing on their streamlining, gills, schooling, and other adaptations. Also, examine mollusks, including the octopus, squid, and nautilus.

34 min
Marine Birds, Reptiles, and Mammals
21: Marine Birds, Reptiles, and Mammals

Turn to the nekton among birds, reptiles, and mammals. These feature some of the most magnificent creatures on the planet, including albatrosses, Sooty Shearwaters, sea turtles, manatees, seals, sea lions, whales, and dolphins. Focus on the adaptations that allow them to thrive in marine environments.

34 min
Whaling, Fisheries, and Farming the Ocean
22: Whaling, Fisheries, and Farming the Ocean

Examine the economic exploitation of marine life, beginning with the history of whaling and continuing to the present, when fishing is the only significant source of hunted food. Weigh the alternatives of commercial fishing and mariculture in an era of rapidly declining fish populations.

34 min
Where Sea Meets the Land and Why Coasts Vary
23: Where Sea Meets the Land and Why Coasts Vary

Have you ever walked along a beach or stood on a high cliff overlooking the sea and wondered how the land got to be that way? Learn how erosion, deposition, sea-level change, plate tectonics, and other factors have produced the characteristic coastlines of the world.

32 min
Where Rivers Meet the Sea - Estuaries and Deltas
24: Where Rivers Meet the Sea - Estuaries and Deltas

River mouths, deltas, tidal inlets, fjords, and enclosed bays are places where freshwater and seawater mix. Explore these complex zones, which are among the most biologically productive ecosystems on Earth. Many marine organisms carry out key parts of their lifecycles in such environments.

30 min
Coastal Erosion-Beaches and Sea Cliffs
25: Coastal Erosion-Beaches and Sea Cliffs

Coastlines are constantly changing features. Examine what happens when structures are built to halt or reverse the change, especially at a time when sea level is rising. Most human-engineered solutions turn out to be short-term at best, and many have unintended consequences.

31 min
Tidal Life, Sea Forests, and Coral Reefs
26: Tidal Life, Sea Forests, and Coral Reefs

Begin your survey of the organisms and ecosystems that flourish in the most complex and varied part of the ocean: the benthic zone, or sea bottom. Start in the shallows, where life inhabits a wide range of niches-from the crashing waves of tide pools to placid mudflats.

32 min
Deep Bottom Life and Hydrothermal Vents
27: Deep Bottom Life and Hydrothermal Vents

Continue your investigation of the benthic zone by exploring the deep ocean bottom, where astonishing diversity exists in cold, darkness, and high pressure. Your tour includes sea cucumbers, brittle stars, herds of sea pigs, and the unique community around deep sea vents, which extracts energy from the Earth itself.

32 min
Trade Winds-The Circulation of Heat and Wind
28: Trade Winds-The Circulation of Heat and Wind

Explore another ocean-the ocean of air-which interacts with Earth's seas through the force of wind on water. Investigate the cause of wind patterns such as the trade winds, westerlies, and polar easterlies. Two crucial factors are uneven distribution of heat and the Coriolis effect due to Earth's rotation.

29 min
Heavy Weather-Storms and Hurricanes
29: Heavy Weather-Storms and Hurricanes

Gain insight into the world's largest storms by looking at the interaction of ocean, atmosphere, and land, and how it produces nor'easters, monsoons, and hurricanes. Focus on the life cycle of hurricanes-how they form, intensify, and often produce devastating storm surges, as happened during Hurricane Katrina.

34 min
The Gulf Stream to Gyres-Vast Surface Currents
30: The Gulf Stream to Gyres-Vast Surface Currents

Follow the chain of events that initiate surface currents in the ocean. Big currents such as the Gulf Stream are caused mainly by wind friction. The mapping of currents has been aided by incidents such as the accidental spill of thousands of floating bath toys in the Pacific in 1992.

32 min
Upwelling, Downwelling, and El Nino
31: Upwelling, Downwelling, and El Nino

Winds drive surface currents, and together wind and currents set in motion large-scale upwelling and downwelling. Study these patterns and the disturbances that lead to El Niño and La Niña cycles, which cause major disruptions in fisheries and weather.

32 min
The Deepest, Slowest River-Polar Bottom Water
32: The Deepest, Slowest River-Polar Bottom Water

While surface currents move a typical water molecule around an ocean basin in a year or two, down deep water circulates much more slowly, taking hundreds to thousands of years to make a circuit. Trace how dense, cold water masses from the polar regions slowly but inexorably move the great bulk of the ocean.

32 min
The Ocean and Global Climate
33: The Ocean and Global Climate

The ocean contains most of the heat in the ocean-atmosphere system, and surface currents distribute it around the planet. Begin your study of the ocean's reaction to increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which is leading to climate change worldwide.

32 min
The Warming, Rising Sea
34: The Warming, Rising Sea

Learn that one conjectured effect of global warming-the shutting down of the Gulf Stream leading to a new ice age in Europe-is unlikely. But the planet is already on a path to melting glaciers and steadily rising seas, with catastrophic implications for low-lying populated areas.

34 min
Marine Pollution-The Impact of Toxins
35: Marine Pollution-The Impact of Toxins

Turn to the problem of marine pollution, which includes runoff from land and deliberate dumping, in addition to acidification from atmospheric carbon dioxide. Also look at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, where plastic particles and other debris have concentrated in a rotating mid-ocean current.

34 min
The Future Ocean
36: The Future Ocean

Finish the course by looking into the future. Constant change will continue to be the state of the ocean, just as it always has been. But humans can promote change for the better in a variety of ways, including using the national park model to establish marine sanctuaries. Learn other choices you can make to help preserve this wonder of the planet.

36 min
Harold J. Tobin

We human beings have been fascinated with the ocean for millennia. Who among us has not stared out at the sea in wonder, wondering what is beneath the waves. What lies out there? What is it that makes the ocean the way that it is?


University of California, Santa Cruz


University of Wisconsin, Madison

About Harold J. Tobin

Dr. Harold J. Tobin is Professor of Geoscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He earned his B.S. in Geology and Geophysics from Yale University and his Ph.D. in Earth Sciences from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Professor Tobin was named a Best Instructor by students at UW-Madison, and he was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society of America. Among his other honors is NASA's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center Group Achievement Award for contributions to the astronaut training program. A specialist in marine geology and geophysics, Professor Tobin has spent nearly a year-and-a-half of his life at sea on 10 oceangoing research expeditions. His seagoing work has also included dives to more than a mile below the surface in the submarine Alvin. Since 2004, he has been Chief Scientist for the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program's Nankai Trough Seismogenic Zone Experiment, an ongoing U.S.-Japan collaboration on the causes of submarine earthquakes and tsunami that is the largest scientific ocean drilling project in history. Professor Tobin has published more than 40 papers and articles in scholarly journals, and his work has been featured on television programs as well as in numerous magazine and newspaper articles.

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