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Sargasso Sea

Sargasso Sea

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The Sargasso Sea is a region in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

, surrounded by ocean current
Ocean current
An ocean current is a continuous, directed movement of ocean water generated by the forces acting upon this mean flow, such as breaking waves, wind, Coriolis effect, cabbeling, temperature and salinity differences and tides caused by the gravitational pull of the Moon and the Sun...

s. It is bounded on the west by the Gulf Stream
Gulf Stream
The Gulf Stream, together with its northern extension towards Europe, the North Atlantic Drift, is a powerful, warm, and swift Atlantic ocean current that originates at the tip of Florida, and follows the eastern coastlines of the United States and Newfoundland before crossing the Atlantic Ocean...

; on the north, by the North Atlantic Current
North Atlantic Current
The North Atlantic Current is a powerful warm ocean current that continues the Gulf Stream northeast. West of Ireland it splits in two; one branch, the Canary Current, goes south, while the other continues north along the coast of northwestern Europe...

; on the east, by the Canary Current
Canary Current
The Canary Current is a wind-driven surface current that is part of the North Atlantic Gyre. This eastern boundary current branches south from the North Atlantic Current and flows southwest about as far as Senegal where it turns west and later joins the Atlantic North Equatorial Current. The...

; and on the south, by the North Atlantic Equatorial Current
North Equatorial Current
The North Equatorial Current is a significant Pacific and Atlantic Ocean current that flows east-to-west between about 10° north and 20° north. It is the southern side of a clockwise subtropical gyre. Despite its name, the North Equatorial Current is not connected to the equator...

. This system of currents forms the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre. All the currents deposit the marine plants and garbage they carry into this sea.

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
70th meridian west
The meridian 70° west of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, North America, the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, South America, the Pacific Ocean, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole....

 to 40 degrees west
40th meridian west
The meridian 40° west of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, Greenland, the Atlantic Ocean, South America, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole....

, and from 25 degrees north
25th parallel north
The 25th parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 25 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses Africa, Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, North America and the Atlantic Ocean....

 to 35 degrees north
35th parallel north
The 35th parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 35 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses Africa, the Mediterranean Sea, Asia, the Pacific Ocean, North America and the Atlantic Ocean....

. Bermuda
Bermuda is a British overseas territory in the North Atlantic Ocean. Located off the east coast of the United States, its nearest landmass is Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, about to the west-northwest. It is about south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and northeast of Miami, Florida...

 is near the western fringes of the sea. 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 (61 m).


Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

 sailors were among the first to discover this region in the 15th century, naming it after the Sargassum
Sargassum is a genus of brown macroalga in the order Fucales. Numerous species are distributed throughout the temperate and tropical oceans of the world, where they generally inhabit shallow water and coral reefs. However, the genus may be best known for its planktonic species...

 seaweed growing there (sargaço / sargasso in Portuguese). However, the sea may have been known to earlier mariners
A sailor, mariner, or seaman is a person who navigates water-borne vessels or assists in their operation, maintenance, or service. The term can apply to professional mariners, military personnel, and recreational sailors as well as a plethora of other uses...

, as a poem by the late 4th century AD author, Rufus Festus Avienus
Avienus was a Latin writer of the 4th century AD. According to an inscription from Bulla Regia, his full name was Postumius Rufius Festus Avienius.He was a native of Volsinii in Etruria, from the distinguished family of the Rufii Festi...

, describes a portion of the Atlantic as being covered with seaweed, citing a now-lost account by the 5th-century BC Carthaginian
Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

 explorer Himilco the Navigator
Himilco the Navigator
Himilco , a Carthaginian navigator and explorer, lived during the height of Carthaginian power, the 5th century BC....

. Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus was an explorer, colonizer, and navigator, born in the Republic of Genoa, in northwestern Italy. Under the auspices of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, he completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean that led to general European awareness of the American continents in the...

 and his men also noted the Saragasso Sea, and brought reports of the masses of seaweed on the surface.


The Sargasso Sea is home to seaweed
Seaweed is a loose, colloquial term encompassing macroscopic, multicellular, benthic marine algae. The term includes some members of the red, brown and green algae...

 of the genus Sargassum
Sargassum is a genus of brown macroalga in the order Fucales. Numerous species are distributed throughout the temperate and tropical oceans of the world, where they generally inhabit shallow water and coral reefs. However, the genus may be best known for its planktonic species...

, 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
Horse latitudes
Horse Latitudes or Subtropical High are subtropical latitudes between 30 and 35 degrees both north and south. This region, under a ridge of high pressure called the subtropical high, is an area which receives little precipitation and has variable winds mixed with calm.The consistently warm, dry...


The Sargasso Sea also plays a major role in the migration
Fish migration
Many types of fish migrate on a regular basis, on time scales ranging from daily to annually or longer, and over distances ranging from a few metres to thousands of kilometres...

 of the European eel
European eel
The European eel, Anguilla anguilla, is a species of eel, a snake-like, catadromous fish. They can reach in exceptional cases a length of 1½ m, but are normally much smaller, about 60–80 cm, and rarely more than 1 m....

 and the American eel
American eel
The American eel, Anguilla rostrata, is a catadromous fish found on the eastern coast of North America. It has a snake-like body with a small sharp pointed head. It is brown on top and a tan-yellow color on the bottom. It has sharp pointed teeth but no pelvic fins...

. The larvae
A leptocephalus is the flat and transparent larva of the eel, marine eels, and other members of the Superorder Elopomorpha. Fishes with a leptocephalus larva stage include the most familiar eels such as the conger, moray eel, and garden eel, and the freshwater eels of the family Anguillidae, plus...

 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
Egg (biology)
An egg is an organic vessel in which an embryo first begins to develop. In most birds, reptiles, insects, molluscs, fish, and monotremes, an egg is the zygote, resulting from fertilization of the ovum, which is expelled from the body and permitted to develop outside the body until the developing...

. It is also believed that after hatching, young Loggerhead Sea Turtle
Loggerhead Sea Turtle
The loggerhead sea turtle , or loggerhead, is an oceanic turtle distributed throughout the world. It is a marine reptile, belonging to the family Cheloniidae. The average loggerhead measures around long when fully grown, although larger specimens of up to have been discovered...

s use currents, such as the Gulf Stream
Gulf Stream
The Gulf Stream, together with its northern extension towards Europe, the North Atlantic Drift, is a powerful, warm, and swift Atlantic ocean current that originates at the tip of Florida, and follows the eastern coastlines of the United States and Newfoundland before crossing the Atlantic Ocean...

 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
Metagenomics is the study of metagenomes, genetic material recovered directly from environmental samples. The broad field may also be referred to as environmental genomics, ecogenomics or community genomics. Traditional microbiology and microbial genome sequencing rely upon cultivated clonal cultures...

 effort called the Global Ocean Sampling
Global Ocean Sampling Expedition
The Global Ocean Sampling Expedition is an ocean exploration genome project with the goal of assessing the genetic diversity in marine microbial communities and to understand their role in nature's fundamental processes. Begun as a Sargasso Sea pilot sampling project in August 2003, Craig Venter...

 (GOS) survey by J. Craig Venter
Craig Venter
John Craig Venter is an American biologist and entrepreneur, most famous for his role in being one of the first to sequence the human genome and for his role in creating the first cell with a synthetic genome in 2010. Venter founded Celera Genomics, The Institute for Genomic Research and the J...

 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
The prokaryotes are a group of organisms that lack a cell nucleus , or any other membrane-bound organelles. The organisms that have a cell nucleus are called eukaryotes. Most prokaryotes are unicellular, but a few such as myxobacteria have multicellular stages in their life cycles...


Owing to surface currents, the Sargasso accumulates a high concentration of non-biodegradable plastic waste
Marine debris
Marine debris, also known as marine litter, is human created waste that has deliberately or accidentally become afloat in a lake, sea, ocean or waterway. Oceanic debris tends to accumulate at the centre of gyres and on coastlines, frequently washing aground, when it is known as beach litter or...

. The huge North Atlantic Garbage Patch
North Atlantic Garbage Patch
The North Atlantic Garbage Patch is an area of marine debris found floating within the North Atlantic Gyre, originally documented in 1972. The patch is estimated to be hundreds of kilometers across in size, with a density of over 200,000 pieces of debris per square kilometer...

 is similar to another ocean phenomenon, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Great Pacific Garbage Patch
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also described as the Pacific Trash Vortex, is a gyre of marine litter in the central North Pacific Ocean located roughly between 135°W to 155°W and 35°N to 42°N...


Depictions in popular culture

The Sargasso Sea is often portrayed in literature and the media as an area of mystery.

The Sargasso Sea features in classic fantasy stories by William Hope Hodgson
William Hope Hodgson
William Hope Hodgson was an English author. He produced a large body of work, consisting of essays, short fiction, and novels, spanning several overlapping genres including horror, fantastic fiction and science fiction. Early in his writing career he dedicated effort to poetry, although few of his...

, such as his novel The Boats of the "Glen Carrig" (1907), Victor Appleton
Victor Appleton
Victor Appleton was a house pseudonym used by the Stratemeyer Syndicate, most famous for being associated with the Tom Swift series of books.The following series have been published under the Victor Appleton name:* Tom Swift, 1910–1941...

's Don Sturdy
Don Sturdy
Don Sturdy was a fictional character in the Don Sturdy series of 15 American children's adventure novels published between 1925 and 1935. All but one book were written by John W. Duffield. The remaining book, Don Sturdy In The Land Of Giants, or, Captives Of the Savage Patagonians , was written by...

 novel, Don Sturdy in the Port of Lost Ships: Or, Adrift in the Sargasso Sea, and several related short stories. Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas describes the Sargasso Sea and gives an account of its formation.

Edwin Corley
Edwin Corley
Edwin Raymond Corley was a United States novelist most famous for his thrillers Sargasso and Air Force One. He used the pseudonyms "David Harper", "William Judson" and worked with novelist Jack Murphy, using the pseudonym "Patrick Buchanan" .As "Patrick Buchanan", Corley and Murphy wrote a series of...

's novel, Sargasso, revolves around a fictional account of Apollo 19 splashing down in the Sargasso sea empty. In Marvel 1602
Marvel 1602
Marvel 1602 is an eight-issue comic book limited series published in 2003 by Marvel Comics. The limited series was written by Neil Gaiman, penciled by Andy Kubert, and digitally painted by Richard Isanove; Scott McKowen illustrated the distinctive scratchboard covers...

, it is where the Fantastick Four
Marvel 1602: Fantastick Four
Marvel 1602: Fantastick Four is a five-issue comic book limited series published by Marvel Comics in 2006. It was the second sequel to the successful Marvel 1602 series, the other sequels being 1602: New World and Spider-Man: 1602...

 gained their powers. Jean Rhys's novel Wide Sargasso Sea
Wide Sargasso Sea
Wide Sargasso Sea is a 1966 postcolonial parallel novel by Dominica-born author Jean Rhys. Since her previous work, Good Morning, Midnight, was published in 1939, Rhys had lived in obscurity. Wide Sargasso Sea put Rhys into the limelight once more, and became her most successful novel.The novel...

plays with the idea that a woman can become lost in her own society and thus driven out of her mind, a la Bronte's 'mad woman in the attic'. 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.

Steve Alten's Loch Ness
Loch Ness
Loch Ness is a large, deep, freshwater loch in the Scottish Highlands extending for approximately southwest of Inverness. Its surface is above sea level. Loch Ness is best known for the alleged sightings of the cryptozoological Loch Ness Monster, also known affectionately as "Nessie"...

-related novel The Loch
The Loch
The Loch is a science fiction novel and Legal thriller by Steve Alten, and was first published in 2005. The novel is the story of marine biologist Zachary Wallace.-Plot summary:...

revolves around an unknown species of animal being encountered in the depths of the Sargasso Sea. Sargasso is also depicted in the book Остров Погибших Кораблей(Isle of Crashed Ships) by Aleksander Belayev (Александр Беляев).

The Sargasso Sea was the venue for the Doc Savage
Doc Savage
Doc Savage is a fictional character originally published in American pulp magazines during the 1930s and 1940s. He was created by publisher Henry W. Ralston and editor John L...

 adventure "The Sargasso Ogre" written by Lester Dent
Lester Dent
Lester Dent was a prolific pulp fiction author, best known as the creator and main author of the series of novels about the superhuman scientist and adventurer, Doc Savage. The 159 novels written over 16 years were credited to the house name Kenneth Robeson.-Early years:Dent was born in 1904 in...

 under the pseudonym
A pseudonym is a name that a person assumes for a particular purpose and that differs from his or her original orthonym...

 Kenneth Robeson
Kenneth Robeson
Kenneth Robeson was the house name used by Street and Smith Publications as the author of their popular character Doc Savage and later The Avenger. Many authors wrote under this name, though most Doc Savage stories were written by the author Lester Dent:...

 and published in the October 1933 issue of the Doc Savage pulp magazine
Pulp magazine
Pulp magazines , also collectively known as pulp fiction, refers to inexpensive fiction magazines published from 1896 through the 1950s. The typical pulp magazine was seven inches wide by ten inches high, half an inch thick, and 128 pages long...


The 1923 silent
Silent film
A silent film is a film with no synchronized recorded sound, especially with no spoken dialogue. In silent films for entertainment the dialogue is transmitted through muted gestures, pantomime and title cards...

 film The Isle of Lost Ships
The Isle of Lost Ships (1923 film)
The Isle of Lost Ships is a 1923 silent film adventure/melodrama directed and produced by Maurice Tourneur and distributed by Associated First National Pictures. The film is based on Crittenden Marriott's novel c.1909. The story was re-filmed in 1929 by director Irvin Willat...

an atmospheric adventure from director Maurice Tourneur
Maurice Tourneur
Maurice Tourneur was an important international film director and screenwriter.-Life:Born Maurice Thomas in the Belleville district of Paris, France, his father was a jeweler. As a young man, Maurice Thomas first trained as a graphic designer and a magazine illustrator but was soon drawn to the...

 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
Lost film
A lost film is a feature film or short film that is no longer known to exist in studio archives, private collections or public archives such as the Library of Congress, where at least one copy of all American films are deposited and catalogued for copyright reasons...


The 1968 movie The Lost Continent
The Lost Continent (1968 film)
The Lost Continent is a 1968 science fiction film made by Seven Arts - Hammer Films featuring Eric Porter, Hildegard Knef, Suzanna Leigh, Tony Beckley and James Cossins. The film was produced, directed and written by Michael Carreras based on Dennis Wheatley's 1938 novel Uncharted Seas...

was set in a highly fictionalized Sargasso Sea where Spanish galleons, trapped for centuries in seaweed, are found in modern times, along with a society of descendants of Conquistadores and sea monster
Sea monster
Sea monsters are sea-dwelling mythical or legendary creatures, often believed to be of immense size.Marine monsters can take many forms, including sea dragons, sea serpents, or multi-armed beasts. They can be slimy or scaly and are often pictured threatening ships or spouting jets of water...


John Abercrombie
John Abercrombie
John Abercrombie or Abercromby may refer to:*John Abercromby , 16th century Roman Catholic martyr, maybe fictitious*John Abercrombie , Scottish horticulturalist and writer...

 & Ralph Towner
Ralph Towner
Ralph Towner is an American multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger and bandleader. He plays the twelve-string guitar, classical guitar, piano, synthesizer, percussion and trumpet.-Biography:...

 collaborated on a Jazz album named Sargasso Sea
Sargasso Sea (album)
Sargasso Sea is an album by guitarists John Abercrombie and Ralph Towner recorded in 1976 and released on the ECM label.-Reception:The Allmusic review by Michael G. Nastos awarded the album 3 stars stating "An uneven recording for many listeners and critics, Sargasso Sea deserves a second chance,...

, recorded in May 1976.

British Post Rock group Pram
Pram (band)
Pram are an experimental band who formed in the Balsall Heath/Moseley area of Birmingham, England in 1990.-History:Originally from Harrogate, North Yorkshire, Rosie Cuckston and Matt Eaton went to school together. They moved to Birmingham in the late 80s, schoolfriend Andy Weir keeping in touch...

 produced a an album in 1995 entitled Sargasso Sea.

The video for Modest Mouse
Modest Mouse
Modest Mouse is an American indie rock band formed in 1993 in Issaquah, Washington, by singer/lyricist/guitarist Isaac Brock, drummer Jeremiah Green, and bassist Eric Judy. They are based in Portland, Oregon. Since their 1996 debut album, This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think...

's "Dashboard" involves a sailor's tale of being lost in the Sargasso in which he loses a hand and is rescued by an island tribe of musical performers who replace his missing hand with a microphone.

Lotus recorded a live album in 2007 entitled Escaping Sargasso Sea.

Wide Sargasso Sea, a 1997 opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

 adaptation of Jean Rhys' novel, with music by Brian Howard, was directed by Douglas Horton, and produced by Chamber Made
Chamber Made
Chamber Made Opera is an Australian production house for contemporary opera and music-theatre. Formed in 1988 by theatre director and librettist Douglas Horton...


"Sargasso Sea" is a song by Scale the Summit on their 2009 release, "Carving Desert Canyons".

Stevie Nicks
Stevie Nicks
Stephanie Lynn "Stevie" Nicks is an American singer-songwriter, best known for her work with Fleetwood Mac and an extensive solo career, which collectively have produced over forty Top 50 hits and sold over 140 million albums...

's 2011 release In Your Dreams included a song entitled "Wide Sargasso Sea", co-written by Nicks and Dave Stewart
Dave Stewart
Dave Stewart may refer to:* Dave Stewart , former pitcher in Major League Baseball and 1989 World Series MVP* David A. Stewart , English musician and record producer best known for his work with Eurythmics...


The science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

4X games are a genre of strategy video game in which players control an empire and "explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate." The term was first coined by Alan Emrich in his September 1993 preview of Master of Orion for Computer Gaming World...

 game Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri
Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri
Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri is the critically acclaimed science fiction 4X turn-based strategy video game sequel to the Civilization series. Sid Meier, designer of Civilization, and Brian Reynolds, designer of Civilization II, developed Alpha Centauri after they left MicroProse to join the newly...

, one of the landmarks on the planet Chiron is called "New Sargasso", a sea whose surface is covered by the native xenofungus.

External links