Marine Geophysical Researches

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 1–5 | Cite as

GEBCO Centennial Special Issue – Charting the Secret World of the Ocean Floor: The GEBCO Project 1903–2003

  • John K. Hall


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 multi-beam 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.


bathymetry gridding mapping satellite 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Marine Geology, Mapping & Tectonics DivisionGeological Survey of IsraelJerusalemIsrael

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