Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Red Sea

The Red Sea, one of the worlds most saline stretches of water at 4% salinity, and bordered by Egypt,Eritrea, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Yemen, Djibouti, Sudan, and Somalia, reaches from the Indian Ocean in the South to through the Gulf of Suez to the Mediterranean in the North.

The constant year round surface sea temperature of 26 degrees celsius in the North and 30 degrees in the South, makes it an popular location for year round water sports including, scuba diving, snorkeling, kite surfing, sailing, and wind surfing.

The Red Sea is home to approximately 1200 different species of fish with around 120 species native to the Red Sea exclusively. Some are hazardous to swimmers and include 2 species of shark, the Tiger and the Grey Reef, although these are rarely active during daylight hours.

Other dangerous and poisonous species include green, and yellow trigger fish, Moray eels, lionfish, surgeonfish, stone, rabbitfish and stingrays. Soap, box and pufferfish can also inflict deadly toxins if disturbed, and a few invertebrates like the Portugese Man o' War , cone molluscs and fire coral are all hazardous if stepped on or handled.

Never the less these injuries are rare and should not frighten off potential visitors.

The Red Sea is particularly enjoyed by divers due to its many marine reef shelves, and shallow coral reefs, allowing snorkelers close up views of spectacularly coloured and interesting marine life.

Jacques Cousteau the famous marine journalist and film maker spent many years studying the marine life of the Red Sea in the 1960's aboard his vessel the Calypso.

Two of his projects the Conshelf 1 and 2 off the coast of Sudan proved that man could live for long periods of time in a little city under the waves.

Because the Red Sea has no rivers which exit into it, there is little sedimentation, or creation of silt. This explains why the Red Sea is so crystal clear. The sunny, steady temperatures along with no sedimentation allow the sun to penetrate the depths allowing the growth of coral which cannot survive below 18 degrees celsius. These reefs are formed where crustaeceans and other marine organisms adhere to a limestone surface increasing the bulk by a few millimetres per year and over time create what we know as coral reefs.

Darwin classified the reefs into 3 types. Fringing of which the Red Sea is probably the most famous due to the desert arid conditions, Barrier which is the type found in the Great Barrier Reef off Australia, and Atoll the type which circles a lagoon ,where the worlds most famous are found in and off the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Islands.

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