April 29, 2013, we enter into the Sargasso Sea, the “Sea of Lost Ships.”.
“Properly speaking, the Sargasso Sea covers every submerged part of Atlantis.” Professor Aronnax, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.
I first learned of the Sargasso Sea courtesy of Jules Verne while reading his celebrated “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.” Verne is perhaps my favorite author of all time and certainly one of the most influential on yours truly. I have a giclee of the submarine Nautilus hanging in my house.
The Sargasso Sea is a body of water within the Atlantic Ocean. A massive lake without shorelines, the Sargasso Sea measures some 700 statute miles wide and 2,000 statute miles long. To me, the Sargasso Sea is more akin to a desert than an ocean.
The Sargasso Sea is not entirely without life, just as the landlocked deserts of the continents have their own unique flora and fauna, the Sargasso Sea has its own. The creatures here have learned to make their living loitering around the massive floating sargassum weed patches that the sea gets its name for. Each patch of weed has become a floating island home to crabs, shrimp, and various varieties of eels. Loitering just below the sargassum rafts a variety of fish hunt the creatures living in the floating weed.
Young sea turtles are known to hide out here in the sargassum till they are big enough that predatory birds cannot make a meal off of them. If you see a bird out here, that bird is seriously lost.
Sadly, man has not left this pristine environment untouched. The Sargasso Sea is slowly becoming the Atlantic’s dumping ground. Sailing ships, coastal cities, and of course weekend beach goers have been dumping their trash carelessly for years. The recklessly discarded plastics of a generation are slowly building a massive floating island out here known as the “North Atlantic Garbage Patch.”
The North Atlantic Garbage Patch was first noticed in 1972. Researchers now estimate that there are over 200,000 pieces of floating plastic per square kilometer. That is some serious plastic. As I stand on the deck and look down, watching the Ruby Princess slice through the azure water, you see the evidence of man everywhere; discarded plastic, floats from nets, and other assorted flotsam and jetsam. This debris is slowly making its way to the garbage patch. It will never be cleaned up. It will stay here long after we are gone.
The North Atlantic Garbage Patch, and its twin, the Pacific Garbage Patch are testaments to what terrible stewards we are here on Earth.
But, the Sargasso Sea collects more than just discarded plastic. For over 500 years the sea has been a repository for unfortunate sailors and their great sailing vessels of every sea faring nation. In the 1973 episode “The Time Trap” of Star Trek: The Animated Series, the USS Enterprise becomes trapped in the science fiction version of a wrinkle in time. Capt. Kirk comments, “It’s like a vast Sargasso Sea. A graveyard of ships from every civilization imaginable.”
Imagine that, a graveyard of ships.
Next, the Ghost Ships of the Sargasso…