Jun 8

World Oceans Day

Reflections of the Sea
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"Juice"
photo by Clark Little
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"Ah! what pleasant visions haunt me
As I gaze upon the sea!
All the old romantic legends,
All my dreams, come back to me.

Sails of silk and ropes of sandal,
Such as gleam in ancient lore;
And the singing of the sailors,
And the answer from the shore!"

~ The Secret of the Sea, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

Besides the beautiful spectrum of greens, blues, and darker colors, of all the beautiful and mysterious phenomena seen along the sea's horizon and the from depths of the deep ocean, one of the strangest is the surface weather mirage called Fata Morgana, named for the Arthurian sorceress Morgan le Fay. These unusual distorted images, characterized by multiple and rapidly changing images with vertical and horizontal features that suggest architectural structures, were often seen in the Strait of Messina, and thought to be fairy castles in the air or false land created by her witchcraft to lure sailors to their deaths. A Fata Morgana may be seen on land or at sea, in polar regions, or in deserts, and may involve almost any kind of distant object, including boats, islands, and the coastline. Noticed since ancient times, Fata Morgana is one explanation for appearances of The Flying Dutchman, which according to folklore, is a ghost ship that can never go home, doomed to sail the oceans forever. The Flying Dutchman is usually spotted from afar, sometimes seen to be glowing with ghostly light.

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World Oceans Day is an annual observation to honour the world's oceans, celebrate the products the ocean provides such as seafood as well as marine life itself for aquariums, pets, and a time to appreciate its own intrinsic value.


The color of the ocean and the color of the sky are related but occur independently of each other: in both cases, the preferential absorption of long-wavelength (reddish) light gives rise to the blue. Note that this effect only works if the water is very pure; if the water is full of mud, algae or other impurities, the light scattered off these impurities will overwhelm the water's natural blueness.


Various cultures divide the hues colors differently from the English language usage and some do not distinguish between blue and green in the same way. An example is Welsh where glas can mean blue or green, or Vietnamese where xanh likewise can mean either.


Other color names assigned to bodies of water are sea green and ultramarine blue. Unusual oceanic colorings have given rise to the terms red tide and black tide.


The Ancient Greek poet Homer uses the epithet "wine-dark sea"; in addition, he also describes the sea as "grey". 


William Ewart Gladstone has suggested that this is due to the Ancient Greeks classifying colors primarily by luminosity rather than hue, while others believe Homer was color-blind.


For more science behind the light scattering and other effects which result in the many different colours of the ocean, some of which are reflected in the tartan, click the spectacular wave photo "Juice" by Clark Little.

Officially registered tartan graphics on this site courtesy of The Scottish Tartans Authority.  Other tartans from talented tartan artists may also be featured.

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