Oceans and water


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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

Europa, one of Jupiter's moons. Photo by NASA/JPL/Ted Stryk

Essay/
Biology
Onward to Europa

The oceans of Jupiter’s ice worlds might be swimming with life – so why do we keep sending robots to Mars?

Lee Billings

A female humpback whale accompanied closely by her male calf, Toku Island, Tonga, South Pacific. Underneath her are two escort whales, both males, competing for attention. Photo Tony Wu

Essay/
Bioethics
Sound off

Human industry is now noisy enough to drown out whale songs. What would happen in the ocean if we went quiet?

Peter Brannen

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

The Southern Ocean is one of the most inhospitable environments on earth. Photo by Doug Allan/Stone/Getty

Essay/
Bioethics
Engineering the ocean

Once you know what plankton can do, you’ll understand why fertilising the ocean with iron is not such a crazy idea

David Biello

Charismatic microfauna. Limacina helicina, a small, swimming, predatory sea snail. Photo by Alexander Semenov

Essay/
Oceans and water
Acid trap

Earth’s oceans are beginning to warm and turn acidic, endangering plankton and the entire marine food chain

Peter Brannen

Sustainable fishing for short-spine thornyhead off the coast of Big Sur, California. Photo by Bridget Besaw/Aurora Open/Corbis

Essay/
Ecology and environmental sciences
The good catch

Hope for the world’s devastated oceans rests on a change in the hearts of the fishermen that know them best

Megan Molteni

The diver and the right whale. Photo by Brian Skerry/National Geographic

Essay/
Biology
The whale’s return

Ancient yet playful, endangered but resurgent, the North Atlantic right whale is a living reminder of how little we know

Philip Hoare

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

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

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

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

Moken diver Salamah Katale picks up a sea cucumber. Photo by Marc Dozier/Hemis/Corbis

Essay/
Anthropology
The Moken

They predicted the Boxing Day tsunami, but can Thailand’s sea gypsies stay afloat on the waves of modernity?

Julian Sayarer