The exploration of the Culm Ocean
The Culm Ocean has always been a place full of myth and legends before Horhsalians found a way to traverse it. This was made possible with the invention of Culm Ships at the end of the Age of Construction. The Culm Ocean was completely unreachable before that and anyone trying to enter it would just fall down to their doom - or would end up getting killed by huge insects that snatch up anyone without the right protection (like a ship). Once people were able to enter the Culm Ocean, they started to explore it, which was not easy at all. Giant insects still tried to attack the ships from time to time or they had navigation problems.
Discovery of the first island
However, the discovery of the first island was an amazing victory for the crew that found it, led by the famous captain Bornira Kornhel, a cunning woman, around 500 years ago. They also discovered that the islands in the Culm Ocean, unlike islands on a regular water ocean, were on the backs of even bigger giant insects or crabs that are peaceful but move around. This means that the islands in the Culm Ocean always move from place to place, making it impossible to have working charts. At least, they found out that these insects/crabs always stayed inside a certain region, almost like they do not dare to step outside of the area they live in. This enabled navigators to assign them to certain culm areas and was a tremendous help for countries and groups that planned to colonize these islands.
Adventurers and explorers continued to travel through other areas of the Culm Ocean while the already discovered islands were explored by those that were specialized to explore on foot. After there was enough data on a few of the first islands, some of the internationally more powerful countries sent out colony ships to construct cities on the islands that were appropriate for it. These cities either stayed in the possession of the countries that constructed them or tried to become independent. Either way, the first big area of the Culm Ocean was colonized and people found a new place to live in.
A dramatic delay
This continued but went on slowly because some areas were more dangerous than others and there were political and logistical problems, like colonies trying to become independent, conflicts between countries and the like. There was also the problem that the first models of Culm Ships were not ready to enter the deeper regions of the Culm Ocean yet which delayed the exploration of the ocean as a whole for a long time until newer models were made.
Not all culm areas are explored and there are still explorers and adventurers out there trying to solve all mysteries this strange ocean has to offer even today - so why not join them?
Most of these explorer teams are either wealthy enough to finance themselves or have a sponsor which mostly consist of either countries, companies or Unions. A lot of them see this as an opportunity to discover more Solid Essence sources while the countries are more interested to claim the islands for themselves to gain more land and power.
Structure and regions
The Culm Ocean cannot be entered through the South, only from the North, Northeast, and Northwest because the more south you travel, the harder it is to actually reach the Culm Ocean until it becomes impossible to enter through the regular oceans. This is because the “first” region, meaning the one that is easier to access and mostly known, is seamlessly connected with the regular oceans while the regions after it are not. So, if you tried to enter the Culm Ocean from the South, West or East, you would fall down because the distance from the ocean to the first culms is too big - the gap between them is part of the Culm Ocean but the missing culms make it so that there is just the ground deep below. Going down there would be possible but it is just as deadly as the other lower regions of the Culm Ocean. You would need to enter from the North and then traverse through the Culm Ocean's first regions to reach the other ones. People suggest that, if you reach the end of the Culm Ocean by going south, you would reach the North of the Ocean of Mist, something that is not proven yet.
I. Entry region
Some people argue that this is not even part of the Culm Ocean yet because there is still water here which you can traverse with regular ships while there are already culms sticking out of said water. This region is tiny compared to the other ones and basically marks the beginning change from regular to Culm Ocean. There are no islands here whatsoever, so the region itself holds no importance for anyone expect as a place to travel through.
II. Outpost region
The name can be misleading since there is a lot more than just outposts here but it got its name because this region of the Culm Ocean is often used as a base for further explorations and the safest one. This region was the first one to be explored after Culm Ships became a thing and has since been almost fully explored. Of course, there are still a few small unexplored small islands but the majority of this region is known and most islands are in the possession of various countries, Unions or companies while there are dozens of colonies belonging to different countries spread throughout it. Most of these colonies are already developed and became cities, there are even a few that were able to become independent island states.
You can often see Culm Ships that travel between islands or back to the continents, the trading economy is strong and ship traffic is busy. There are a few culm pirates here and there but most naval routes are safe and patrolled by the navies of different countries or groups. Some islands still function as outposts.
III. Deep region
This name can be a tiny bit misleading as well since the culms here are not below the ones found in the outpost region although the ground is far deeper now, not muddy/swampy anymore and you would fall even further although nobody knows what the ground looks like since nobody has ever been there (or come back alive). The name mostly stems from the fact that this region was not traversable with the first Culm Ships and needed technological advancements before people could even enter this region. The reason why normal Culm Ships were not enough were more aggressive and much stronger insects the old model could not handle any more, the culms bent over too easily and broke, resulting in ships falling down, and the flow of Essence Energy disrupted the inner workings of the machines that were needed to run Culm Ships. Visiting this region with the old version was a one-way ticket straight to your death but engineers were able to develop a better version that was able to travel through this region just around 200 years ago.
Most is already known about this region but, unlike the outpost one, there are still lots of unexplored islands - possibly undiscovered ones as well - and even still numerous unclaimed ones. Of course, almost every island is in the sights of different countries, Unions and groups and there are lots of battles - either fought by force, money or influence - over their ownership. There are colonies spread throughout the region but most are in the possession of countries since they are in need of support from the homeland. Surviving here without any support as a city would be extremely harsh. There are more culm pirates than before, strong and big insects, territorial Non-Eophrim tribes/settlements and other dangers, so completely colonizing this region proves to be difficult. However, there are undertakings to make this region a safer place and some countries even work together to achieve this, mostly ones that already had positive or good-to-neutral relations before.
IV. Still unnamed region
A region that was made traversable recently, just a few years ago. As such, most about this region is unknown and there are only a small number of islands that have been discovered, let alone be colonized although the first countries have already begun to send out ships to explore islands and find those suitable to become colonized. This region has still no name and was not reachable before because the culms here are much higher than before, meaning that the Culm Ships would need to be able to climb up without bending them down which was not possible with the second version. Thus, engineers began to work on a third version that would be able to climb culms and reduce the pressure on the culm while doing so. They can also climb down although there is no real need for this except to leave the unnamed region - climbing down even further is still deadly.
Nobody knows what secrets this region could hold and there are numerous adventurers, explorers and navy ships out there to explore it. There are even rumors that the famous adventurer Walldos is trying to assemble a crew to find its secrets…
It is still unknown if there are even more regions.