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No. 97: Jan-Feb 1995

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A Line In The Sea

What would create a deep green line 10 kilometers wide and stretching for hundreds of kilometers across the azure Pacific? Sailors have remarked on this line as their ships clove it. It is so large that astronauts on the Space Shuttle Atlantis have photographed it from hundreds of kilometers up. Sample analysis proves the green line to be a particularly dense concentration of phytoplankton, which thrives along the boundary where the North Equatorial Counter-current meets the colder South Equatorial Current. The microorganisms feed in the richer, cooler, sinking waters of the latter and then rise to the surface to create the green line.

(Yoder, James A., et al; "A Line in the Sea," Nature, 371:689, 1994. Also: Adler, T.; "Microorganisms Create a Line in the Ocean," Science News, 146: 263, 1994.)

Comment. Even more unusual lines may be created where oceanic currents meet. For example, in 1932 an immense congregation of sea snakes 10 feet wide and 60 miles long was observed in the Malacca Strait. (SF#4)

From Science Frontiers #97, JAN-FEB 1995. 1995-2000 William R. Corliss