The Sargasso Sea is a region in the gyre in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. It is bounded on the west by the Gulf Stream; on the north, by the North Atlantic Current; on the east, by the Canary Current; and on the south, by the North Atlantic Equatorial Current. This system of ocean currents forms the North Atlantic Gyre. All the currents deposit the marine plants and refuse they carry into this sea.
The Sargasso Sea is 1,100 km wide and 3,200 km long (700 statute miles wide and 2,000 statute miles long). It stretches from roughly 70 degrees west to 40 degrees west, and from 20 degrees north to 35 degrees north. Bermuda is near the western fringes of the sea. 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 (61 m).
The naming of the Sargasso Sea after the Sargassum seaweed traces back to the early 15th century Portuguese explorations of the Azores Islands and the large "volta do mar" (the North Atlantic gyre), around and west of archipelago, where the seaweed was often present. The Sargasso Sea was first fully crossed by the expedition of Christopher Columbus in 1492, who was amazed by the masses of seaweed he encountered. However, the sea may have been known to earlier mariners, as a poem by the late 4th century CE author, Rufus Festus Avienus, describes a portion of the Atlantic as being covered with seaweed, citing a now-lost account by the 5th-century BCE Carthaginian explorer Himilco the Navigator.
The Sargasso Sea is home to seaweed of the genus Sargassum, which floats en masse on the surface there. 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.
The Sargasso Sea also plays a major role in the migration of the European eel and the American eel. The larvae of both species hatch there and go to Europe or the East Coast of North America. Later in life, they try to return to the Sargasso Sea to lay eggs. It is also believed that after hatching, young Loggerhead Sea Turtles use currents, such as the Gulf Stream to travel to the Sargasso Sea, where they use the Sargassum as cover from predation until they are mature.
The Sargasso Sea was the subject of a recent metagenomics effort called the Global Ocean Sampling (GOS) survey by J. Craig Venter and others, to evaluate the diversity of microbial life there. The results have indicated that, contrary to previous theories, the area has a wide variety of prokaryotic life.
Owing to surface currents, the Sargasso accumulates a high concentration of non-biodegradable plastic waste. The huge North Atlantic Garbage Patch in the area is similar to another ocean phenomenon, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Depictions in popular cultureEdit
The Sargasso Sea is often portrayed in literature and the media as an area of mystery.
Stories set within the SeaEdit
In 1846 Edward Forbes hypothesized a post-Miocene land mass extending westward from Europe into the Atlantic. "If this land existed it did not extend to America (for the fossils of the Miocene of America are representative & not identical): where then was the edge or coastline of it, Atlantic-wards? Look at the form & constancy of the great fucus-bank & consider that it is a Sargassum bank".
The Sargasso Sea features in classic fantasy stories by William Hope Hodgson, such as his novel The Boats of the "Glen Carrig" (1907), Victor Appleton's Don Sturdy novel, Don Sturdy in the Port of Lost Ships: Or, Adrift in the Sargasso Sea, and several related short stories. Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea describes the Sargasso Sea and gives an account of its formation.
In episode 28 of The Little Mermaid (TV series), the Sargasso Sea is featured as the primary location of a great battle involving the merfolk and the octopans.
Other stories include:
- The 1923 silent film The Isle of Lost Ships, an atmospheric adventure from director Maurice Tourneur, takes place in the Sargasso Sea. The film was based on Crittenden Marriott's 1909 novel The Isle of Dead Ships. The Isle of Lost Ships is now a lost film. It was refilmed at the dawn of sound in 1929 by director Irvin Willat.
- Fred Andrew's mystery novel Plato's Pond  features the fictitious land of Gaia, which is a continent in the middle of the Sargassum Sea.
In several fictional depictions, the Sargasso Sea is detailed as a mythical floating ship graveyard in which ships get caught in the seaweeds and never get free again, turning the vessels into ghost ships. Versions of such are shown in:
- the first episode of "Johnny Quest" and a subsequent parody in The Venture Brothers
- the German role-playing game book Schiff der Rätsel ("Ship of Mysteries"), by Uwe Anton
- the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Ravenloft supplement Islands of Terror
- In the first book of the Cryptid Conspiracies series, the Sargasso Sea was the area where European eels enter the sea and metamorphosed into the species of the Loch Ness Monster.
- The 1977 album Sunshower by Taeko Onuki contained a track entitled "SARGASSO".
- The 1990 album "Michael Lee Firkins" by Michael Lee Firkins final track was titled "The Sargasso Sea".
- The 1994 album ST3 by Salt Tank contained a track entitled "Sargasso Sea".
- The instrumental jam band Lotus released a double live album in May, 2007, titled Escaping Sargasso Sea (SCI Fidelity Records). It was nominated for a Jammy award by Guitar Player magazine for "Best Live Album of 2007". The album was described by Relix magazine as "sexy and sophisticated dance music, mature enough to be played in the club or the living room".
- In 2009, progressive metal band Scale the Summit released an album called "Carving Desert Canyons" the second track is titled "Sargasso Sea"
- The 2011 album "In Your Dreams" by Stevie Nicks contained a track entitled "Wide Sargasso Sea".
- 'Sargasso' by Big Flame is included on their second EP 'Rigour' (1985).
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Sargasso Sea.|
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- "Turtles return home after UK stay". BBC News. 2008-06-30. Retrieved 2010-05-23.
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- "The trash vortex". Greenpeace. Retrieved 2008-04-20.
- Ruth Heller (2000). A Sea Within a Sea: Secrets of the Sargasso. Price Stern Sloan. ISBN 978-0-448-42417-0.
- Forbes' letter to Darwin
- Jules Verne (trans. by William Butcher) (1870/2001). 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-282839-8.
- Fred Andrews. "Kemper Conseil Publishing". Kemperconseil.nl. Retrieved 2012-01-04.
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- "Taeko Ohnuki – Sunshower (Vinyl, LP, Album) on Discodogs".
- "ST3 on Discodogs". Retrieved 2012-10-24.
- "Jammy Awards Announce 7th Jammy Awards Nominations", Guitar Player
- Hect, Jared (2007) "Escaping Sargasso Sea" (review), Relix, 6 December 2007
- Sargasso Sea Alliance
- Skeptoid #132: The Sargasso Sea and the Pacific Refuse Patch at Skeptoid
- What's the story on the Sargasso Sea? (The Straight Dope)
- Photos of organisms living in the Sargasso Sea