Sargasso Sea & Its Mystery
The Sargasso Sea is a strange and a unique creation of the nature. The sea area which is some 700 miles wide, 2000 miles long and located in the North Atlantic, has no shores. It is bounded by ocean currents on all sides. To its west is the Gulf Stream Current, on its east is the Canary Current, northern side is bounded by North Atlantic Current, and the south by North Atlantic Equatorial Current. The island of Bermuda is located on its western fringes.
With such ocean currents on all sides, this sea area unlike the harsh cold North Atlantic, is strangely warm with stable weather conditions and with calm and weak winds. Another strange phenomena which is nowhere seen in the world is, this vast water area is covered with some dense seaweed which forms a thick mat on the surface. This free floating golden-brown seaweed is knows as Sargassum and therefore such name of the sea.
Although the Sargasso Sea remains calm with its surrounding currents, a subtropical gyre is formed here. As a result the entire sea area with its mat like weeds slowly rotates clockwise. The rotation also depends on the surrounding weather conditions.
Some Portuguese sailors first discovered Sargasso Sea with its mat of seaweed in the early 15th century. Even Christopher Columbus who sailed through it in 1492, thought that he must had reached the land as he looked at the vast stretch of dense brown surface.
It has been proven today that these seaweed are not blown into this area from the shores by the water currents. They are actually native to this area and grow here vigorously hundreds of miles away from the shores. Although there are other such currents like in the South Pacific and in North Pacific that too circle around, but there is no record of such thick formation of seaweed in any such areas.
It is also known that due to the ocean currents, vast amount of marine plants and even trash get drifted into Sargasso Sea from the nearby ocean areas and become embedded into these weeds. Once these move into the area, it is unlikely that they are ever able to move out due to the nature of the currents on all sides.
Sargassum Seaweed found in Sargasso Sea
Many sailing vessels that tried to pass through this area requiring wind to sail along, sometimes became virtually motionless due to the exceptionally weak and calm winds. And the thick seaweed also would have played their role in stalling the vessels. The Sargasso Sea is also known as the Horse Latitudes because the becalmed Spanish ships stranded for weeks had to often throw away their horses overboard in order to save drinking water.
The Bermuda Triangle Connection
Sargasso Sea is located at the heart of the triangle area with one of its corners Bermuda being on its western fringes.
While it is known that the large freighters and barges can steam through this area with ease and the seaweed not a real threat to shipping, there have been many mysterious incidents that took place in this area.
Starting from early days and until recent times, there have been many cases where ships after having been lost were later found floating derelict without a single soul on board. As reported in London Times, the Rosalie was one such case when it sailed through the Sargasso Sea in 1840 not to be found. When it reappeared, there was nobody on board.
The American schooner Ellen Austin
found another ship in this area in 1881 travelling in good speed but with no one on board. The captain sent his prize crew on board the unnamed ship. But the ship disappeared. When it was retraced after two days, like before there was no one on board.
There have been many derelicts found in this area even in recent times. Like the Connemara IV that was drifting on its own in 1955 about 140 miles away from Bermuda. Apart from this there were also a number of boats and yachts found floating unmanned on the Sargasso Sea between 1960s and 1980s.
Conservation of Sargasso Sea
Despite its strange nature, the international marine scientists and oceanographers recognize the importance of Sargasso Sea and its role with the wider North Atlantic ecosystem. Renowned oceanographer Sylvia Earle calls the Sargasso Sea The golden rain forest of the ocean
. The Bermuda Institute of Science
has been studying this area for over 50 years.
The dense mat of seaweed are home to fish, turtles and many types of marine life. The American and European eels come here and use the weeds as their breeding ground. Young Sea Turtles use the ocean currents to travel to the mat of weeds to get a cover from their predators and return once they become mature. The plant materials available here serve as rich food for Wahoo, Tuna and other types of fish who migrate through this sea area. It serves a great place of forage for even the migrating humpback whales.
Unfortunately, while the ocean currents bring in lots of marine plants into this area, the same currents also bring a vast amount of garbage from the other parts of the ocean including the non biodegradable plastics. This is the main reason for the initiative taken up by the Bermuda Government to conserve and protect the Sargasso Sea.
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