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The sea without a shore

Sargasso Sea

Fun Facts

The sea without a shore

Is it possible for a sea to have no coastline, no beaches, nor come into contact with any land whatsoever? You would be surprised to find out that there is one such sea. And that sea that is located in the middle of an ocean. How is it possible?

The Sargasso Sea, The Sea Without A Shore

The Sargasso Sea is located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, just a little north of the equator. The water in the Sargasso Sea is one of the clearest in the ocean, with underwater visibility of up to and incredible 200 feet. The edge of this secret sea can be seen from the air as the boundry is marked by a dramatic change in color to a deep blue.

The Sea Of Zen

The sea is created by calmness. This expanse of water is almost completely free of ocean currents, eddies, and has notably mild weather. The name of the sea originates from the 15th century thanks to Portuguese sailors who were amazed by the massive collection of seaweed (of the Sargassum variety) that they found floating in it. The seaweed is pushed into the sea by the strong ocean currents that surround the area. (those circular currents are called a gyre, created by the Coriolis Effect)

Sadly, those same currents that collect the seaweed have also gathered a fair amount of pollution. There are large puddles of oil and plastic trash in the Sargasso Sea. It’s similar to the more famous “plastic island” in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

The Danger Of Calm

Sargasso SeaBefore modern ships, the Sargasso Sea used to be hazardous to sailors. The incredibly calm ocean and constantly weak winds could leave ships stranded on the open ocean, unable to move. In addition to the unusual conditions, a portion of the infamous Bermuda triangle also lie within the sea’s borders.

This part of the world has been named the horse latitudes (between 30 and 35 degrees latitude) after an odd sailing tradition that involved parading around the deck with a straw horse and tossing it overboard. Dumping the “dead horse” was to signify working off debts at around that point in the journey.

Ruth Heller (2000). A Sea Within a Sea: Secrets of the Sargasso. Price Stern Sloan.
“The Sargasso Sea”. World Book 15. Field Enterprises. 1958.



  1. Cathy

    July 4, 2014 at 2:06 am

    I’ve read about those plastic islands. They’re largely made of garbage. They’re sparse for the most part, so it’s not like you can walk on them, but you’ll see all kinds of trash floating out there. I wonder if there are any message in the bottles caught in the vortex.

    Humans really need to do something about all the pollution. I’m sure China with its 4 billion people dumping their garbage into the Pacific isn’t helping matters, but they’re not the only culprits. The US, and Australia are also to blame. As is India and the rest of the South Pacific nations. We only have one planet that’s habitable, we need to keep it clean. With Australia’s PM wanting to destroy the coral reefs so they can drill for oil, things are looking a bit bleak.

  2. Atronius Morthelplombe III

    October 23, 2017 at 10:38 pm

    I had read that the derivation of the “Horse Latitudes” was due to the lack of winds at these latitudes. Ships unlucky enough to be becalmed could spend weeks or months effectively stuck (no wind), hoping that ocean currents would drift them out of the area, and back toward more reliable winds.

    The article about Deserts being common at ±30° latitude, also contains the secret to the horse latitudes. The Hadley cells are air convection cells. Between roughly 5°N and 25°N they create reliably constant North-to-South winds (from the convection), which are then deflected by the Coriolis effect to blow from the NE to the SW. These windows, strongest between 25°-20° are the “Trade Winds”. They nearly always blow, so ships could use these latitudes to cross oceans with reliable Trade Winds to propel their sailing ships. The latitudes of ±30° on the other hand, are the downward part of the Hadley cell, so the air is descending vertically, rather than blowing sideways. Vertical air movements do not propel sailing ships.

    If you were sailing from (say) England south to the Trade Winds belt (remember the Triangular Trade system), you had to cross the Horse Latitudes of unreliable winds. It was common to become stuck in the Horse Latitudes for no wind. If becalmed too long, the Horses on board were commonly eaten after other stores were depleted. Due to the Anglo world’s horse-flesh taboo, this may be taken as an indication of how dangerous the lack of wind was — horse-flesh is one step above outright cannibalism.

    I believe the French and Icelanders have a different custom regarding the eating of Horse, however.

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