August 13 – Yo-Ho-Ho!

Today’s factismal: There are at least 140 different seas on Earth.

You’ve probably heard of someone “sailing the seven seas”. You may even have wanted to do it yourself. But exactly what are the seven seas and why are they called that? As usual, there is a modern answer, an ancient answer, and the right answer.

The Aegean Sea was known to the ancients (My camera)

The Aegean Sea was known to the ancients
(My camera)

The ancient answer comes from the Greeks. They were great seafarers and sailed all over the “known world”. In doing so, they encountered many different bodies of water and called the largest and most important of them “seas”. To a Greek sailor of 300 BC or so, they seven seas would be the Aegean Sea between Greece and what was Troy and is Turkey, the Adriatic Sea between what was Rome and now is Italy and what was Illyria and now is Croatia, the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea between Turkey and the Ukraine, the Red Sea between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the Persian Sea (now known as the Persian Gulf) between what was Persia and what is Saudi Arabia and what was Persia and what is Iran, and the Caspian Sea between what was wasteland and now is Russia and what was Persia and now is Iran. When a Greek sailor said he had sailed the seven seas, he was bragging that he had been all across the known world; he’d been everywhere, done everything, and gotten the toga.

The Atlantic Ocean, anotehr ancient "sea" (My camera)

The Atlantic Ocean, anotehr ancient “sea”
(My camera)

The modern answer is both the same and different from the ancient answer. The modern description of the seven seas includes the Arctic Sea, the North Atlantic Ocean, the South Atlantic Ocean, the North Pacific Ocean, the South Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the Southern Ocean (also known as teh Antarctic Ocean). Though the seas are different, they idea is still the same. For someone to say that they have sailed the seven seas today means that they’ve been everywhere, done everything, and have the T-shirt to prove it.

The Coral Sea (My camera)

The Coral Sea
(My camera)

So what is the right answer? The right answer is that there is no actual answer. There are at least 140 different regions on Earth that are described as seas. Some of them are large bodies of salt water, like the North Atlantic. Some of them are tiny, little freshwater ponds, like the Caspian. (Tiny being a relative term; the Caspian Sea is literally half the size of Texas.) Some of them have clearly defined borders, like the North Pacific. Some of them have no real borders at all, like the Sargasso Sea. (The Sargasso Sea does, however, have plenty of boarders.) So pick any seven to sail and those can be your own, personal seven seas.

The Antarctic Ocean, one of the modern "seven seas" (My camera)

The Antarctic Ocean, one of the modern “seven seas”
(My camera)

And while you are sailing, why not do some science along the way? To learn more about coral reefs and how they form oases in the oceans, then head on over to the Coral Reef Monitoring Program!
http://monitoring.coral.org/

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