Friday, January 6, 2012

Just What Is the Sargasso Sea?

Just one of hundreds of Sargasso seaweed
patches in the Bermuda  Triangle
The Sargasso Sea is an area in the central part of the North Atlantic Ocean. They say you can spot it easily because the currents move in a clockwise motion. I could not see the current direction, but I knew we where there when I saw the large patches of Sargasso seaweed floating on the surface for miles.

The Sargasso Sea is 700 statute miles wide and 2,000 statute miles long (1,100 km wide and 3,200 km long). It stretches from roughly 70 degrees West to 40 degrees West and from 25 degrees North to 35 degrees North. This means we have to sail through it as it is in northwest section of the Bermuda Triangle.

The Sargasso Sea is the only "sea" without shores.The ocean water in the Sargasso Sea is distinctive for its deep blue color and exceptional clarity, with underwater visibility of up to 200 feet. The color is indescribable in that it is a deep sapphire blue. I have tried to capture the color in a photo and it doesn't come close. You just have to see it for yourself!

The water in it is very warm and clear. This sea is filled with seaweed of the genus Sargassum,which floats en masse on the surface.The water is very calm even with the current. The Sargassum is not a threat to shipping, and historic incidents of sailing ships being trapped there are due to the often calm winds of the "horse latitudes" (named as such apparently because early sailors referred to sailing in the calms as "beating a dead horse") not to being stuck in seaweed.

The early Portuguese sailors used to blame the seaweed when their ships entered the Sargasso Sea and became becalmed, that is why they named this part of the ocean Sargaco which is Portuguese for grape because the bulbous floats on the seaweed looked similar to grapes to them.

Another strange thing about this part of the ocean is the lack of nutrients. Even though a good portion of plankton is produced in the Sargasso Sea area, there is still not enough food to attract commercially viable fish. Because of this, the area has become known as the floating dessert.

The floating seaweed has become the home to many small animals, these include small octopuses, along with tiny crabs and tiny shrimp. For some unknown reason eels are drawn from all over the ocean to meet in this place. This is where they mate, spawn and die. When the larvae are hatched they swim back to the waters off of Europe, the U.S. or Mediterranean. We saw many, many small octopuses (or is it "octopi"?). They look like large bubbles floating on the surface. Swimming here is not recommended!

1 comment:

  1. Good to hear from you again. This would be a dream trip for me (Gary)as it is always something i wanted to do. Happy New Years to all!
    Sunny and 42 here in Michigan today, Big Lions game on tomorrow night as we have to win or stay home!
    Gary & Cheryl Bida


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