Sargasso Sea

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For other uses, see Sargasso Sea (disambiguation).
The Sargasso Sea in the North Atlantic is bounded by the Gulf Stream on the west, the North Atlantic Current on the north, the Canary Current on the east, and the North Equatorial Current on the south.

The Sargasso Sea is a region in the gyre in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. It is the only sea on Earth which has no coastline. 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 1,107 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).[1]


The naming of the Sargasso Sea after the Sargassum seaweed traces back to the early 15th century Portuguese explorations of the Azores Islands and of the large "volta do mar" (the North Atlantic gyre), around and west of the archipelago, where the seaweed was often present.[2] 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.[3][4] However, the sea may have been known to earlier mariners, as a poem by the late 4th century author, Rufus Festus Avienus, describes a portion of the Atlantic as being covered with seaweed, citing a now-lost account by the 5th-century BC Carthaginian Himilco the Navigator.


Lines of sargassum in the Sargasso Sea

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.[5]

Map showing distribution and size of eel larvae, with increasing density centering on the Sargasso Sea.

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 predators until they are mature.[6][7]

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.[8]

Owing to surface currents, the Sargasso accumulates a high concentration of non-biodegradable plastic waste.[9] The huge North Atlantic Garbage Patch in the area is similar to another ocean phenomenon, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The accumulation of both floating plants and floating garbage in this and other gyres of the world depends on Coriolis and the fact that they are clockwise rotating systems in the Northern Hemisphere and counter clockwise rotating systems in the Southern Hemisphere. Coriolis veers moving objects in both cases into the centre of the gyre.

Several nations and nongovernmental organizations have joined together to protect the Sargasso Sea.[10] These organizations include the Sargasso Sea Commission [11] established on 11 March 2014 by the governments of the Azores (Portugal), Bermuda, Monaco, United Kingdom and the United States.

Depictions in popular culture[edit]

The Sargasso Sea is often portrayed in literature and the media as an area of mystery.[12] In 1910 publication Psmith in the City by P. G. Wodehouse, it has been used in a negative sense. Mike looks at the bedroom that he has to hire as a bedsit and ...'it seemed the most dismal spot he had ever struck. A sort of Sargasso Sea among bedrooms.'

Stories set within the Sea[edit]

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".[13]

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.[14]

Jean Rhys' novel Wide Sargasso Sea refers to, but is not set in the sea, being concerned with colonial era Jamaica.

Ezra Pound's poem, "Portrait d'une Femme," begins, "Your mind and you are our Sargasso Sea".

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[15] 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 Jonny Quest and a subsequent parody in The Venture Bros.
  • the German role-playing game book Schiff der Rätsel ("Ship of Mysteries"), by Uwe Anton[16]
  • The book Sargasso of Space written by Andre Norton (writing as "Andrew North"), concerned an alien planet upon which uncounted spaceships were drawn in to crash on the planet. The book references the Sargasso Sea.
  • In Steve Alten's 2005 novel, The Loch, the Loch Ness Monster was said to be a massive species of Anguilla anguilla that spawned in the Sargasso Sea and then migrated to Loch Ness. The monster, Nessie, was then a member of this species trapped in the lake.
  • In Carl Barks' Donald Duck #72, "The Secret of the Sargasso Sea", Donald, his nephews and Uncle Scrooge McDuck travel on an adventure to the Sargasso Sea.[17]
  • In Kenneth Robeson's pulp series featuring Doc Savage, book #8(#18 in publisher's order) is named "The Sargasso Ogre", with the story based in and around the Sargasso Sea.

In music[edit]

  • The 1976 ECM album Sargasso Sea by John Abercrombie and Ralph Towner has a track entitled "Sargasso Sea" written by Abercrombie & Towner.
  • The 1977 album Sunshower by Taeko Onuki contained a track entitled "SARGASSO".[18]
  • The 1982 album A Blind Sign by Shoc Corridor B1 track was titled "Sargasso Sea".[19]
  • The 1987 Album "Everyman" by Drum Theatre has a track entitled "Wide Sargasso Sea".
  • The 1990 album Michael Lee Firkins by Michael Lee Firkins final track was titled "The Sargasso Sea".[20]
  • The 1994 album ST3 by Salt Tank contained a track entitled "Sargasso Sea".[21]
  • 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".[22] 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".[23]
  • 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".[24]
  • "Sargasso" by Big Flame is included on their second EP 'Rigour' (1985).
  • The 2005 album Silver Ship by musician Suzanne Ciani contains a track titled "Sargasso Sea".


  1. ^ "Sargasso Sea". World Book 15. Field Enterprises. 1958. 
  2. ^ "The Sargasso Sea". BBC - Homepage. BBC. Retrieved 6 June 2011. 
  3. ^ "Wide Sargasso Sea". Book Drum. 
  4. ^ Deacon, G. E. R. (January 1942). "The Sargasso Sea". The Geographical Journal. JSTOR 1788092. 
  5. ^ "Sargasso". Straight Dope. 
  6. ^ "Turtles return home after UK stay". BBC News. 2008-06-30. Retrieved 2010-05-23. 
  7. ^ "Satellites track turtle 'lost years'". BBC News. 2014-03-05. Retrieved 2014-03-05. 
  8. ^ "Environmental genome shotgun sequencing of the Sargasso Sea.". 
  9. ^ "The trash vortex". Greenpeace. Retrieved 2008-04-20. 
  10. ^ Shaw, David (2014-05-27). "Protecting the Sargasso Sea". Science & Diplomacy 3 (2). 
  11. ^
  12. ^ Ruth Heller (2000). A Sea Within a Sea: Secrets of the Sargasso. Price Stern Sloan. ISBN 978-0-448-42417-0. 
  13. ^ Forbes' letter to Darwin
  14. ^ Jules Verne (trans. by William Butcher) (1870). 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas (2001 ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-282839-8. 
  15. ^ Fred Andrews. "Kemper Conseil Publishing". Retrieved 2012-01-04. 
  16. ^ Anton, Uwe: Schiff der Rätsel. Ullstein Abenteuer Spiele. ISBN 3-548-21090-2.
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Taeko Ohnuki – Sunshower (Vinyl, LP, Album) on Discodogs". 
  19. ^ "Sargasso Sea (album:A Blind Sign)". 
  20. ^ Michael Lee Firkins (album)
  21. ^ "ST3 on Discodogs". Retrieved 2012-10-24. 
  22. ^ "Jammy Awards Announce 7th Jammy Awards Nominations", Guitar Player
  23. ^ Hect, Jared (2007) "Escaping Sargasso Sea" (review), Relix, 6 December 2007
  24. ^ In Your Dreams (album)

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 28°N 66°W / 28°N 66°W / 28; -66