Blue Water Amazes Seniors

I well recall seeing the Mediterranean Sea for the first time. This senior was 21 years old and had not seen an ocean previously. I was part of a group on a French study trip sponsored by Oberlin College in Ohio. We spent a total of seven weeks in France starting in St-Aygulf, a small beach resort set on the outskirts of the old Roman town, Fréjus.

Then we were three weeks in Aix-en-Provence and lastly three weeks in Paris. I was a French major from Cornell College, Iowa and I earned a Carnegie Corporation Scholarship. I was thrilled with this “all inclusive” experience.

 The Blue Blue Mediterranean Amazed Me

When I saw the Mediterranean for the first time, it looked as if “someone has poured blue ink into the water.” It was such a dark blue. I learned later that was due to its depth. The Mediterranean has an average depth of 1,500 m (4,900 ft) and at its greatest width, it runs over 850 miles.

The Sea accounts for a staggering 30% of tourists world wide and attracts nearly 250 million visitors in a year. Viewing a map of the sea, it is evident why so many tourists are lured to its sandy shores and a host of divergent islands. There is so much to see just traveling around the Mediterrean Sea.

This inland sea is bordered on the north by Europe, on the east by Asia, and on the south by Africa. Its connection to the Atlantic (the Strait of Gibraltar) is only 14 km (9 mi) wide. It covers an approximate area of 2.5 million km² (965,000 sq mi).

 History of the Mediterranean Sea

Stone Age tools have been discovered by archeologists along its shores and it is believed that the Egyptians began sailing on it by 3000 B.C.E. Early people of the region used the Mediterranean as a trade route and as a way to move to and colonize other regions.

As a result, the sea was controlled by several different ancient civilizations. These include the Minoan, Phoenician, Greek and later the Roman civilizations.

The Mediterranean is an almost completely closed basin where the continuous inflow of surface water from the Atlantic Ocean is the sea’s major source of replenishment and water renewal. It is estimated waters take over a century to be completely renewed through the Strait of Gibraltar which is only 300 m (1000 ft) deep.

The scarce inflow, coupled with high evaporation, makes the Mediterranean much saltier than the Atlantic Ocean. The Sea is almost totally free of any tidal influence.

Main crops in the Mediterranean include olives, grapes, cork, oranges and tangerines. Wildlife, such as sea turtles, monk seals, sting rays and schools of fish flourish throughout the sea and provide vital resources.

Trademark blue, warm waters, exotic beaches and proximity to historic regions have made the Mediterranean Sea a popular destination for travelers to enjoy and explore. jeb

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