“How inappropriate to call this planet Earth when it is quite clearly Ocean,” noted, science fiction writer Arthur C Clarke in a science journal. He is right. Oceans, after all, fill two-thirds of this planet. Compared to their vastness, man is but a miniscule drop. Man has ventured into less than five percent of their endless waters. Barely explored and nearly unfathomable, the oceans are indeed enthralling. They cast a spell and hold man in a net of wonder. Celebrating this fascination on World Ocean’s Day, Soulveda explores various oceans and the depths of their uniqueness.
It is no mystery that this ocean is the largest water body on earth. But here is a strange fact: Great white sharks assemble in the middle of this ocean, in an area now called White Shark Café (no drinks or food served in this one). Researchers describe this region as the equivalent of a desert, and are yet to discover the reason behind these sharks’ weird behaviour.
While the Pacific Ocean has a desert, the Atlantic Ocean has its very own sea. Unlike any other sea we may know, the Sargasso Sea is right in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. But if you are picturing this sea with a beach, you will be disappointed. Instead, this sea is surrounded by dynamic ocean currents. The Sargasso is the only sea without a coast.
In comparison to other oceans in the world, the Indian Ocean is geographically the youngest. But, that does not make it any less powerful. It claimed 200,000 lives in the 2004 Tsunami. It is not just lives that this ocean has taken. Over 20 million years ago, it had swallowed the microcontinent Kerguelen Plateau. It is believed that tectonic plate shifts on the Indian Ocean created Kerguelen Hotspots (volcanic hotspots) that caused the entire microcontinent to sink.
Water currents are volatile. It makes them terrifying. And when they freeze, they are man’s worst nightmare. In fact, oceanographers roughly estimate a total of 3 million shipwrecks in and around the Arctic region. Take the Franklin Expedition, for instance. Despite being highly equipped, the mission’s fate was sealed in the 19th century, while trying to discover the Northwest Passage. Its vessels HMS Erebus and HMS Terror sank, joining the million other wrecks in the Arctic Ocean.
The newly named waterbody Southern Ocean is the fourth largest ocean. Its waves are propelled by a band of high velocity westerly winds called the Roaring Forties. The waves are sometimes as high as a ten-storey building. Monster waves in this ocean can reach as high as 64 feet.
Have you ever wondered how the Caribbean got its characteristic white sand beaches? The credit goes to parrotfishes. These colourful creatures excrete fragments of coral that accumulate over time to produce white sand. In fact, one adult parrotfish generates close to 90 kilograms of sand per year. It is surprising, how waste can turn into something so beautiful.
While man may assign various names to different water bodies, oceans comprise the same waters. They know no boundaries. Going by that logic, the very plurality of the word ‘oceans’ becomes meaningless.
It is very likely that no other water body has fuelled man’s imagination as much as the Caspian Sea. For years now, residents along its shores have reported seeing amphibious creatures that resemble human beings. With hairy head and webbed fingers, these ‘men of the sea’ are believed to have stemmed from Iranian legends. But it is not just mermen supposedly lurking in these waters. The residents claim to have seen mysterious lights, and spotted Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO) hovering in the sky.
This largest land-locked sea has seen the rise of many civilisations–Greek, Turkish, Roman, and Jewish, to name a few. These settlements were greatly influenced by the sea. Trade, colonisation, and war strategies were all dependent on sea routes. Eventually, the Mediterranean Sea has also seen their fall. For instance, Heraklion, which was once an important Egyptian city, submerged in this sea.
Black Sea is the largest water body with almost no oxygen. Hence, the Greeks called it an ‘inhospitable sea’. However, the discovery of an underwater river instills hope in man that the Black Sea may have the potential to sustain life. In fact, the saline river flowing along the sea bed is complete with its own flora and fauna.
The Ross Sea is a stretch of water body in the Southern Ocean. When researchers and oceanographers gauged the human impact on oceans, they discovered that the ocean waters have lost their purity, thanks to pollution. Only the Ross Sea, which is at a safe distance from human inhabitation, is left pristine. It is the only unpolluted stretch of ocean left on earth! And so, it has been nicknamed ‘The Last Ocean’.
The dichotomy of oceans is quite interesting. Some have placid deserts while others have underwater rivers. Some are low on oxygen while others have rich biodiversity. They can, on one hand, be nurturing and life-giving. But on the other, they can be merciless, taking lives, swallowing cities, even engulfing continents. Yet, despite their differences, they’re all one. While man may assign various names to different water bodies, oceans comprise the same waters. They know no boundaries. Going by that logic, the very plurality of the word ‘oceans’ becomes meaningless. Indeed our planet–like Clarke noted–is clearly ocean.