Taking for example the attached image, when looking at the ocean floor, there appears to be areas (strips, some of which I have drawn red lines by) of greater detail. Is this accurate detail? From ships that have passed over the area? enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ Yes, from ships that passed above the area. An interesting thing that will come out of the search for flight MH370 is an extremely detailed topographic map of the area marked blue here. They are discovering some amazing stuff in there that we had no idea existed: volcanos, faults, mountain ranges, huge ridges, and so much more. $\endgroup$
    – Gimelist
    Mar 17, 2016 at 8:13

2 Answers 2


Those are bathymetric survey tracks.

The survey artifacts are very straight and regular in character, compared to geological features. What you're seeing is an increased level of detail along the survey line, which contrasts with the relatively smooth background model.

I labeled some of the features in this answer to a related question:

Labeled image of Pacific floor

NOAA Reference: Did I find the lost underwater civilization of Atlantis?

  • $\begingroup$ Cool, thanks. Does this data exist for more of the ocean floor (and it is not represented in Google Earth)? Or is that all of it? $\endgroup$ Mar 16, 2016 at 19:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Al The same sort of data is used all over the world. It tends to be denser around the coast and near major ports, as you'd expect. $\endgroup$
    – kwinkunks
    Mar 16, 2016 at 23:54

Those are the only places we have actually scanned the sea floor in detail; ergo, they are the only areas on your map that are pseudo-accurately detailed. The rest we simply infer, nobody has ever even scanned, never-mind explored, the rest of that surface area.

  • $\begingroup$ Please do not repeat other answers $\endgroup$
    – Jan Doggen
    Mar 17, 2016 at 8:50

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