Where Is the Sargasso Sea?
The Sargasso Sea is in the Atlantic Ocean south of the Bermudas and several hundred miles east of the American mainland. It is distinguished from other parts of the Atlantic Ocean by its characteristic brown Sargassum seaweed and often calm blue water.
The sea 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, a clockwise-circulating system of ocean currents termed the North Atlantic Gyre. It lies between 70° and 40° W, and 20° to 35° N, and is approximately 1,100 km wide by 3,200 km long (700 by 2,000 statute miles). Bermuda is near the western fringes of the sea.
It is famous for its seaweed and as a spawning ground for eels. When these eels are eight or more years old and spawning time is due, they leave the pond or stream where they have been living and make their way, over land if necessary, to the sea. When they reach the area known as the Sargasso, the females lay their millions of eggs at a depth of 1,500 feet and the males fertilize them. The baby eels hatch out after a few days and float to the surface.
But what happens to the baby eels? Drifting at first, they eventually make their way to the ponds and streams of their parents. The American eels go to America and the European eels to Europe. The old eels do not return but die after spawning.
The Sargasso Sea is home to seaweed of the genus Sargassum, which floats en masse on the surface there. Vast masses of seaweed lie on the surface of the Sargasso. Carried along by winds and ocean currents from the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, this floating seaweed is concentrated into an area many thousands of square miles in extent. There it gives refuge to myriads of sea creatures, such as fish, sea-worms, molluscs, crabs and jellyfish. Sea birds find it useful as a resting place.
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. This “floating” island may have given rise to the famous legend in ancient times of the lost land of Atlantis. Christopher Columbus recorded taking two weeks to sail through it in 1492.
The Sargasso Sea is the subject of many legends. Ships are said to have vanished in it, but there is no truth in the legend that associates it with the lost land of Atlantis. It is also a body of water that has captured the public imagination, and so is seen in a wide variety of literary and artistic works and in popular culture.