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If you have ever dived in the ocean, you might have felt your ears pop. This is because of the air pressure changing.

Explore the relationship between pressure and depth with this simple activity.

What you’ll need

  • 1.5 to 2 litre plastic bottle (preferably with flat sides)
  • Masking or duct tape
  • Scissors or similar tool to create holes

Activity Steps

  • You are going to investigate the relationship between pressure and depth.
  • Make three holes, evenly spaced, in a vertical line, in the bottle.
  • Cover the holes with tape and fill the bottle with water, and put the lid on.
  • Stand the bottle in a sink or take it outside and try to guess how the water will behave coming out of the holes. Where will the pressure be greatest? How will you know?
  • Untape the holes and unscrew the lid.

Review

  • How did what you observe compare with what you predicted?
  • Why do you think the water is flowing with greater force at the bottom compared with the top?

Safety guidance

  • Scissors should be child-friendly and used under adult supervision.

Find out more
At sea level the atmosphere exerts a pressure of 1 bar. This is the normal pressure that we feel. If you have ever been in an airplane, been up a mountain or dived in the ocean, you might have felt your ears pop. This is because of the air pressure changing.

Pressure underwater increases at 1 bar for every 10 meters (or 33 feet). This means that at 40 meters below the surface, where the deep reef team are working, the pressure is 5 bars, or five times greater than at sea level.

The deepest point in the ocean is the Challenger Deep, which is 10,994m (36,070 feet) deep. It is located in the Pacific Ocean, near the Mariana Islands group. The pressure here is about 1,100 bars. This is the equivalent of taking the Eiffel Tower, turning it upside down and putting it on your big toe. Only three people have been to the bottom of the ocean in specially designed submarines.

 

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