Tag Archives: Ocean

Beautiful Creatures – Flying Fish

flying fish

In order to glide out of the water, a flying fish (Latin name “exocoetus”) swishes its tail to up to 50-70 times per second,which “vibrates” to produce enough speed to burst through the surface. It then spreads its pectorial fins and tilts them slightly upwards to lift itself to glide through the air. This permits it to sail above the ocean’s surface where it can at travel at 70km per mile. The fish is able to increase its time in the air by travelling against or at an angle to the direction of updrafts created by a combination of aircurrents in which the “wings” flutter due to the wind with a maximum glide time recorded to be 30 seconds. At the end of a glide, a flying fish folds up its pectoral fins which have been acting as “wings” to re-enter the sea or drops the lower end its tail into the water where it “vibrates” the lower part of its tail to allow its body to reaccelerate and change direction, providing the thrust to lift itself for another glide.

In 1900 to 1930s flying fish were studied as possible models used to develop airplanes.  There are about 50 species grouped in seven to nine genera. Flying fish are found in all of the major oceans, particularly in the warm tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans.  Historically the country of Barbados was nicknamed as “The land of the Flying fish”. Today it remains the official national fish for the country and it was in the Caribbean that I first saw them.  I looked down from a deck  above the bridge of a cruise ship and for a moment wondered why the captain was playing with paper airplanes! Then I realized who they were and spent a wonderful afternoon watching them ride and play enjoying the updrafts caused by the ship as we sailed passed Dominica!

Beautiful Crystals – the Mermaid’s Aquamarine


Aquamarine, the gem of the sea, is named with the Greek word for sea water.  Aqua sparkles like the sea and its color is pale to medium blue, sometimes with a slight hint of green. Aquamarine is a member of the Beryl family (which includes emeralds). Its blue / blue-green color comes from ferrous iron – a double refraction of light from different angles within the stone causes it to reflect the two different colors.

Aquamarine is the birthstone for March and legends say that it is the treasure of mermaids coming from their tears; with the power to keep sailors safe at sea. Aquamarine is said to be a particularly strong charm when immersed in water – which is a good thing, since that is when its power is most needed! Aquamarine was also said to have a soothing influence on land, also on married couples. Its power is supposed to help husbands and wives work out their differences and ensure a long and happy marriage, which makes it a good anniversary gift. Traditionally, it has been held as the gem for the nineteenth wedding anniversary. Aquamarine is said also to protect  against the wiles of the devil.

Aquamarine, March’s birthstone, is the universal symbol of hope, health and youth. A traditional protection for travelers, it was said to prevent seasickness, quicken the intellect and enhance courage.Wearing this stone is to enhance one’s personal power and help to project an aura of strength.

Long used by royalty, Egyptian amulets of the XII Dynasty (circa 2000 BC) included Aquamarines carved into the forms of animals. 

Aquamarine is found in Brazil, Zambia, Mozambique, Angola, Nigeria, and other countries. However the majority of Aquamarine comes from Brazil, even though the finest Aquamarine is mined in Africa.

Beautiful Phenomena – the Black Pearl of Great Price


For thousands of years, most seawater pearls were retrieved by divers working in the Indian Ocean  in areas like the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and in the Gulf of Mannar. Starting in the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD), the Chinese hunted extensively for seawater pearls in the South China Sea. When Spanish conquistadors arrived in the Americas, they discovered that around the islands of Cubagua and Margarita, some 200 km north of the Venezuelan coast, was an extensive pearl bed.

One discovered and named pearl, La Peregrina, was offered to the Spanish queen.   According to Garcilasso de la Vega, who says that he saw La Peregrina at Seville in 1507,  it was found at Panama in 1560 by a black slve who was rewarded with his liberty, and his owner with the office of alcalde of Panama.

Black pearls, frequently referred to as Black Tahitian Pearls, are highly valued because of their rarity; the culturing process for them dictates a smaller volume output and can never be mass produced. This is due to bad health and/or non-survival of the process, rejection of the nucleus and their sensitivity to changing climatic and ocean conditions. Before the days of cultured pearls, black pearls were rare and highly valued for the simple reason that white pearl oysters rarely produced naturally black pearls, and black pearl oysters rarely produced any natural pearls at all.

In a Christian New Testament parable, Jesus compared the Kingdom of Heaven to a  “pearl of great price”  in Matthew 13: 45-46. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.”

The language of symbolism was in common use around the time of Jesus Christ; most people were familiar with the symbolic meanings. The circle is a symbol of God because it has no beginning and no end. The circle or pearl was considered to represent Love and Knowledge.  The combination of equal amounts of Love and Knowledge is a symbol of Wisdom; the 2 circles intertwined – owl eyes – is symbolic of Wisdom. Some other pearls are Truth, and Faith.  Pearls are also important in Hebrew, Islamic and Hindu scriptures – the  Ayurveda contains references to pearl powder as a stimulant of digestion and to treat mental ailments.

Beautiful Places – Guernsey


A heady mix of stunning scenery and contemporary living make Guernsey an ideal place to relax. Inspiring walks along the cliff paths, rambles through the rural interior can be combined with lazy days on the island’s beautiful beaches. St Peter Port, the island’s capital, is a bustling harbor town with a tapestry of architectural styles that tell the story of the region’s changing fortunes. Here bistros, restaurants and boutiques jostle, while the harbor ferries make travel to the other Channel Islands (Jersey, Alderney, Sark etc) simple. Although Guernsey is geographically much closer to France than the UK, it is loyal to the British crown. This loyalty, can be traced back to Norman times when the Channel Islands first became part of the English realm, and forms the basis of the island’s constitution.

Beautiful Disappering World – Sea Ice

Article by Michon Scott design by Robert Simmon

April 20, 2009

This Article is from the NASA Earth Observatory Website to which there is a link below

Sea ice is frozen seawater that floats on the ocean surface. It forms in both the Arctic and the Antarctic in each hemisphere’s winter, and it retreats, but does not completely disappear, in the summer.

Photograph of a polar bear standing on an ice floe.
Sea ice plays an important role in the climate and ecosystems of the Arctic and Antarctic. (Photograph ©2008 fruchtzwerg’s world.)

The Importance of Sea Ice

Sea ice has a profound influence on the polar physical environment, including ocean circulation, weather, and regional climate. As ice crystals form, they expel salt, which increases the salinity of the underlying ocean waters. This cold, salty water is dense, and it can sink deep to the ocean floor, where it flows back toward the equator. The sea ice layer also restricts wind and wave action near coastlines, lessening coastal erosion and protecting ice shelves. And sea ice creates an insulating cap across the ocean surface, which reduces evaporation and prevents heat loss to the atmosphere from the ocean surface. As a result, ice-covered areas are colder and drier than they would be without ice.

Sea ice also has a fundamental role in polar ecosystems. When sea ice melts in the summer, it releases nutrients into the water, which stimulate the growth of phytoplankton, which are the base of the marine food web. As the ice melts, it exposes ocean water to sunlight, spurring photosynthesis in phytoplankton.When ice freezes, the underlying water gets saltier and sinks, mixing the water column and bringing nutrients to the surface. The ice itself is habitat for animals such as seals, Arctic foxes, polar bears, and penguins.

Photograph of an orca (killer whale) swimming alongside floating ice in the Ross Sea, Antarctica.
Life thrives along the margins of sea ice. Melting and freezing enhance circulation, bringing nutrients to the surface. The nutrients nourish phytoplankton, which are the base of the ocean food web. All marine animals, including the magnificent killer whale, ultimately depend on phytoplankton. (Photograph courtesy Donald LeRoi, NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center, NSF Antarctic Photo Library.)

Sea ice’s influence on the Earth is not just regional; it’s global. The white surface of sea ice reflects far more sunlight back to space than ocean water does. (In scientific terms, ice has a high albedo.) Once sea ice begins to melt, a self-reinforcing cycle often begins. As more ice melts and exposes more dark water, the water absorbs more sunlight. The sun-warmed water then melts more ice. Over several years, this positive feedback cycle (the “ice-albedo feedback”) can influence global climate.

Sea ice plays many important roles in the Earth system, but influencing sea level is not one of them. Because it is already floating on the ocean surface, sea ice is already displacing its own weight. Melting sea ice won’t raise ocean level any more than melting ice cubes will cause a glass of iced tea to overflow.

The Sea Ice Life Cycle

When seawater begins to freeze, it forms tiny crystals just millimeters wide, called frazil. How the crystals coalesce into larger masses of ice depends on whether the seas are calm or rough. In calm seas, the crystals form thin sheets of ice, nilas, so smooth they have an oily or greasy appearance. These wafer-thin sheets of ice slide over each other forming rafts of thicker ice. In rough seas, ice crystals converge into slushy pancakes. These pancakes can slide over each other to form smooth rafts, or they can collide into each other, creating ridges on the surface and keels on the bottom.

Photograph of Nilas Ice. Photograph of new pancake ice. Photograph of rafted ice. Photograph of a pressure ridge in sea ice.
(At left) Sea ice begins as thin sheets of smooth nilas in calm water (top) or disks of pancake ice in choppy water (2nd from top). Individual pieces pile up on top of one another to form rafts and eventually solidify (3rd from top). Over time, large sheets of ice collide, forming thick pressure ridges along the margins (bottom). (Nilas, pancake, and ice raft photographs courtesy Don Perovich, Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory. Pressure ridge photograph courtesy Ted Scambos, National Snow and Ice Data Center.)

Some sea ice is fast ice that holds fast to a coastline or the sea floor, and some sea ice is pack ice that drifts with winds and currents. Because pack ice is dynamic, pieces of ice can collide and form much thicker ice. Leads—narrow, linear openings in the ice ranging in size from meters to kilometers—continually form and disappear.

Larger and more persistent openings, polynyas, are sustained by upwelling currents of warm water or steady winds that blow the sea ice away from a spot as quickly as it forms. Polynyas often occur along coastlines where offshore winds maintain their presence.

Satellite image showing sea ice features: fast ice, pack ice, a polynya, and leads.

Fast ice is anchored to the shore or the sea bottom, while pack ice floats freely. As it drifts, leads continually open and close between ice floes. Persistent openings, polynyas, are maintained by strong winds or ocean currents. (NASA satellite image courtesy Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Rapid Response Team .)

As the water and air temperatures rise each summer, some sea ice melts. Because of differences in geography and climate, it’s normal for Antarctic sea ice to melt more completely in the summer than Arctic sea ice. Ice that escapes summer melting may last for years, often growing to a thickness of 2 to 4 meters (roughly 6.5 to 13 feet) or more in the Arctic.


For ice to thicken, the ocean must lose heat to the atmosphere. But the ice insulates the ocean like a blanket. Eventually, the ice gets so thick that no more heat can escape. Once the ice reaches this thickness—3 to 4 meters (10 to 13 feet)—further thickening isn’t possible except through collisions and ridge-building.

Ice that survives the summer melt season is called multi-year ice. Multi-year ice increasingly loses salt and hardens each year it survives the summer melt. In contrast to multi-year ice, first-year ice—ice that has grown just since the previous summer—is thinner, saltier, and more prone to melt in the subsequent summer.

Sea Ice : Feature Articles.