Articles in this special issue of Oceanography represent a compendium of research that spans the disciplinary and thematic breadth of the National Science Foundation's Ridge 2000 Program, as well as its geographic focal points. The mid-ocean ridge (MOR) crest is where much of Earth's volcanism is focused and where most submarine volcanic activity occurs. If we could look down from space at our planet with the ocean drained, the MOR's topography and shape, along with its intervening fracture zones, would resemble the seams on a baseball, with the ocean basins dominating our planetary panorama. The volcanic seafloor is hidden beneath the green-blue waters of the world's ocean, yet therein lie fundamental clues to how our planet works and has evolved over billions of years, something that was not clearly understood 65 years ago—witness the following quote from H.H. Hess (1962) in his essay on "geopoetry" and commentary on J.H.F. Umbgrove's (1947) comprehensive summary of Earth and ocean history:
The birth of the oceans is a matter of conjecture, the subsequent history is obscure, and the present structure is just beginning to be understood. Fascinating speculation on these subjects has been plentiful, but not much of it predating the last decade [the 1950s] holds water.