Friday, November 20, 2009

The Red Sea

The Red Sea, or as it’s called in Arabic: Bahr al-Ahmar, is one of the world’s most tantalizing seascape environments. It began to develop 20-30 million years ago when the plates of East Africa and Arabia stretched-out until they broke apart. The Red Sea is a geologically recent opening and one of the youngest oceanic zones on earth.

* The Red Sea is usually considered an extension of the Indian Ocean, which lies between Africa and Asia

* Narrow connection to the Indian Ocean lies at its south through the Bab al Mandeb and the Gulf of Aden

* 1,200 miles long and as much as 190 miles wide at some points

* Maximum depth of the Red Sea is 8,200 feet

9 countries share the shorelines of the Red Sea and the waters of the Red Sea support a vital fishing industry and provide recreation facilities. Unfortunately, the coastal environment is fragile. The shore line, coastal region, and near-shore waters are all under pressure from populations and industry.

Approximately 40 % of the Red Sea is quite shallow (less than 100 m) whereas about 25 % of the Red Sea is less than 50 m deep. About 15 % of the Red Sea is over 1000 m depth. Shelf breaks are marked by coral reefs and the continental slope has an irregular profile (series of steps down to 500 m)

Any attempt to describe the marine life of the Red Sea risks drowning in superlatives--it is extraordinary, unparalleled, marvellous, incredible, and truly wondrous. It was not by chance that Jacques Cousteau chose this region to first introduce the world to undersea life, and by the same token it is not by chance that so many people become diving fanatics during a visit to Sinai.

The exceptional richness of marine life in the Red Sea, and in the Gulf of Aqaba in particular, is due to an unusual combination of environmental factors. First, the Red Sea is comparatively sheltered and calm: its currents are gentle and regular, its tides almost non-existent, and its temperature warm and steady. While its waters run quite deep, they are warmed by volcanic heat emanating from the sea bed. The result of all these factors is an environment ideally suited to the complex and delicate ecosystem of coral reefs.

Even among the world's most celebrated reef systems, that of the Sinai stands out for its unusual wealth of certain kinds of marine life--most notably, coral itself. The sheer abundance of corals, many of exceptional size and color, makes diving in Sinai an experience of almost magical intensity. But beyond the corals is a nearly infinite variety of marine species, including such notable creatures as Napoleon wrasse, brilliant orange coral groupers, enormous gorgonian fans, moray eels and hammerhead sharks, elaborate lionfish and majestic, swooping giant manta rays.

Cargo vessels, oil tankers, fishing boats, and passenger liners all move their trade across this great waterway, but for many, the true enchantment of the Red Sea is hidden just below its surface.

There are over 1000 species of invertebrates and around 200 recorded coral types to be found. Moreover, the Red Sea boasts over a thousand species of fish, more species than any other proportional body of water. Not surprisingly, therefore, the Red Sea is considered by many to offer the very best diving available in the marine world. The Red Sea attracts divers, photographers, marine scientists, and leisure seekers from all over the world, hoping to experience and explore the incalculable wonders of the colorful, abounding marine life and the Red Sea’s lavish coral reefs. In places, the exceptional living reef stretches way out to sea, forming a elaborate system of caves, lagoons, gardens, and plateaus. Some of these coral summits plunge dramatically thousands of feet to the ocean floor. The Red Sea is not all a delight however, as it has its troubles which you will have to stay away from. There is minimal danger from marine animals in the Red Sea, and with a little common sense, even these dangers can be eliminated. Some of the marine animals are dangerous to touch, others dangerous to eat, and some are dangerous to come face to face with. There are fire corals and stinging hydroids which can be extremely painful if accidentally touched as well.

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