The Sargasso Sea

Image of the Sargasso Sea courtesy of Aris Multimedia Entertainment, Inc. 1994

Current images of the cloud cover over the Sargasso Sea and the temperature of the sea surface waters from space at the web site of the Bermuda Atlantic Time-Series Study (BATS) Satellite Oceanography Project.

The Sargasso sea is an irregularly-shaped region in the Atlantic Ocean that is set apart, not by the presence of land masses, but by vast expanses of seaweed, called Sargassum, that float on its surface utilizing small balloon-like floats. If you have never seen this brown free-floating seaweed, click here to visit a Sargassum exhibit by the University of California's Online Museum of Paleontology.

Legends abounded about the Sargasso sea in early times. It was feared that the thickly matted seawood would entangle ships that sailed through these waters and that huge monsters of the deep made their homes beneath its protective blanket. It was considered in its time to be an unknown and perilous navigation hazard.

We now know that the Sargasso sea is a region of slow-moving ocean currents surrounded by rapidly-moving ocean currents (the Gulf Stream, the Equatorial Drift Current and the Canary Current). The seaweed probably first came from the shores of the West Indies and then adapted to living and reproducing in the open ocean. The seaweed is nowhere dense enough to pose a navigation hazard to ships. It is a fascinating and complicated ecosystem where many small animals have adapted to living among the Sargassum weeds.

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