Oceans and water


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A facsimile of the Carta marina (1539) by Olaus Magnus. Photo courtesy Wikipedia

Essay/
Astronomy
Here be black holes

Like sea monsters on premodern maps, deep-space images are science’s fanciful means to chart the edges of the known world

Surekha Davies

Seamen relaxing on the HMS Pallas, April 1775. Early depictions of common seamen are exceedingly rare; this one is from an album of watercolours by Second Lieutenant Gabriel Bray aboard the ship. Courtesy the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

Essay/
Oceans and water
Who was Jack Tar?

He was a patriot and a prisoner, a delegate and a drunk; circling the globe when few Englishmen ever left their home counties

Stephen Taylor

Herdsmen in the monsoon rain near the village of Walpur, Madhya Pradesh, India. Photo by James P Blair/National Geographic

Essay/
The environment
When the monsoon goes away

The imperious monsoon rains have ruled India for centuries. Already unstable, what happens if they shift fundamentally?

Sunil Amrith

Europa as photographed by the Galileo spacecraft. Photo courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute

Essay/
Astronomy
Our aquatic universe

We know that the Universe is awash with watery moons and planets. How can we pinpoint which of them could support life?

Tim Folger

Crew on a prospecting cruise to South Georgia and Antartica, 1913-14. All photos courtesy Edinburgh University Main Library, released under CC-BY licence

Essay/
Work
The last whalers

Men from the Shetland Islands worked the whaling expeditions to the Antarctic. Until the whales were gone

Lyndsie Bourgon

The Aegean Sea. Photo by Krista Rossow/National Geographic

Essay/
Beauty and aesthetics
The sea was never blue

The Greek colour experience was made of movement and shimmer. Can we ever glimpse what they saw when gazing out to sea?

Maria Michela Sassi

Photo by Chris Jordan from the series Midway: Message from the Gyre

Essay/
Stories and literature
Sands of time

The North Sea is rich in signs of what made the modern world. It’s also a monument to what awaits us in the Anthropocene

David Farrier

A North Atlantic right whale mother and calf (Eubalaena glacialis) off the Atlantic coast of Florida. Photo by Brian Skerry/National Geographic

Essay/
Biology
Written in baleen

Trees lay down rings, the Earth tells its story in geological strata and now we’ve found the secret archive of the whale

Rebecca Kessler

Okeanos, half-man, half-eel, painted on a bowl by Sophilos circa 600 BC. Photo courtesy The British Museum

Essay/
Stories and literature
The depths of Okeanos

To the ancient Greeks, Ocean – at once a monster and a god – was what the Big Bang is to cosmologists today

James Romm

At the National Aquarium, Washington DC. Photo by Getty Images

Essay/
History of science
Through a glass, sadly

The aquarium was once the best way to encounter the wonders of sea life. It has become a mere travesty, tacky and cruel

Bernd Brunner

An oasis in the Sahara Desert. Photo by Carsten Peter/National Geographic

Essay/
Ecology and environmental sciences
Midnight at the oasis

Once oases supported human evolution. Now, our addiction to fountains, pools and palms threatens our survival

Rebecca Lawton