Part 1—Launch Virtual Ocean

Step 1 Download and Launch Virtual Ocean

  1. Click on the link to open the Virtual Ocean Homepage in a new window.
  2. Virtual Ocean launches directly from your computer using Java Web Start technology. Once the page loads, click on the link that says, "Click here to launch Virtual Ocean." It may take a minute to download and start.
    Note: You need to have the latest version of Java, 1.6 or greater, to run Virtual Ocean. If you get an error message when launching, you can try updating your JAVA. See the information on the Virtual Ocean homepage for details.
  3. You will see a message that asks if you want to launch the downloaded program, click OK.
  4. Once you have Virtual Ocean running, you will see Earth (absent water!) and an elevation and bathymetry legend in your Java window.

Step 2 Become Familiar with the Virtual Ocean Controls

  1. Rotate Earth
  • Click anywhere on the map and drag your mouse to control the rotation of Earth.
  • Use the up and down, left and right arrows to rotate Earth.
  • Right-click (ctrl click - Mac) to change from a zenith view to an angled view.
  • Zoom In and Out
    • Use the scroll button on your mouse to zoom in and out.
    • Click and scroll on the Mac touchpad to zoom with the arrow keys.
    • At any time you can select Bookmarks > Zoom to Global Scale, to quickly zoom out and re-center the map.
  • Exaggerate the Elevation
    • Click the VE slider, located in the upper-left part of the toolbar, to change the virtual elevation.
  • Note the Latitude, Longitude, Elevation and Altitude
    • Move your cursor around the map, zoom in and out, and notice how these values change. The values are located in the upper-right section of the toolbar.

Step 3 Examine a Visualization of Earth without Water

Often, we only focus on land topography. This view shows a detailed version of ocean topography, also called bathymetry.

  1. As you examine the base map, look at the ocean floor bathymetry. 
    Consider the following questions:
    • What do the colors mean?
    • What are all the lines, particularly down the middle of the Atlantic?  
  2. Orient Earth, so that you see Japan and much of the Pacific. Can you find the subduction zone trenches that cover much of the Western Edge of the Pacific?