Nature constantly surprises us with landscapes and phenomena that are often difficult to believe and explain. In this Green Ecology article we focus on one of these natural rarities, the Red Sea. In its case, its name is far from unjustified, since its waters can be seen in this color, drawing the attention of observers and creating doubt about why it acquires this tonality. If you are also one of those who wonder why this type of phenomenon, stay and discover in this article the reason why it is called the Red Sea .
Situation and characteristics of the Red Sea
The Red Sea is located in the Indian Ocean, located between the continents of Africa and Asia . This sea connects with the ocean to the south, since to the north is the Sinai peninsula. Its total area is about 440,000-450,000 km 2 , reaching 2,200 km long and reaching an average depth of 490-500 meters, although its deepest point is 2,130 meters below sea level.
On the other hand, the temperature of the water surface does not vary much, around 2ºC in winter and reaching 30ºC in summer, which makes the Red Sea the warmest sea in the world .
In addition, it is a sea with high salinity , since due to its high temperatures the phenomenon of evaporation is very frequent, while rainfall is scarce and rarely occurs.
With all this, the Red Sea has unique animal and plant species that are not found in other seas and oceans due to its relative isolation from other marine masses. In this sea there are more than 10% of the fish species (about 1,200 species), which only live in this sea. Likewise, due to the warmth of its waters, coral reefs abound, reaching 2,000 kilometers in length. They also support large amounts of animal life. Several species of turtles can be found, such as green turtles, leatherback turtles or hawksbill turtles, and many of these turtles are in danger of extinction , as well as giant clams, rays, white tip sharks or various species of dolphins.
The most widespread theory and supported by most experts, is that the Red Sea was formed about 55 million years ago during the separation of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula , leaving between them a crack that later filled with water. That is, what led to the formation of this sea was the separation of the earth’s crust
This process of separation of the crust is still active today, following the model of Wilson plate tectonics, through which this sea will increase in size in the not too distant future, since the water level of this sea is already currently increases about 12.5 centimeters a year.
Why is this sea called the Red Sea?
Well, at this point, what really concerns this article, we must say that the answer is not clear. There is no consensus as to why this sea is called the Red Sea , but there are various theories that try to find an explanation.
Algae and cyanobacteria
The first of the theories considered is that there is no reference to a true reddish color of the waters of this sea. It is likely that it refers to some red tide produced by seasonal outcrops near the water surface of a species of cyanobacterium called Trichodesmium erythraeum that stains the waters of this red color, a phenomenon that has also been observed in Caribbean waters.
In addition to cyanobacteria, the Red Sea is believed to be named after the algae found in it in large quantities. During some seasons of the year, these algae undergo a development process that causes the waters to turn a reddish-brown color.
Some find the explanation of the Red Sea in the biblical texts, especially the episode in which Moses, protected by the power of God, managed to separate the waters of this sea on both sides in order to escape with the people of Israel. However, when the Egyptians tried to chase them the waters of the sea closed over them and their blood turned the waters of the sea red.
The Red Sea is said to be named for a simple translation error in converting biblical texts from Hebrew to Greek. This theory states that originally the correct translation was ” sea of reeds “, and that the error comes from confusing in English ” reed ” (reed) with ” red ” (red).
Another theory seeks the explanation in the cardinal points, that is, that the name refers to a specific geographical location, since on many occasions some Asian languages use colors to name the orientations, as is the case of the ancient Persians. More specifically, red would refer to the south, and equivalently black would correspond to the north ( Black Sea ).
The reflection of the sky, Mount Sinai and the cliffs
There is also the assumption that the Red Sea gets its name because of the mountainous landscapes that surround it and are reflected in its waters.
Ancient navigators named it as such when they saw the reddish cliffs reflected on it. Equivalently, it occurs with the hypothesis that seeks the explanation in Mount Sinai, which is near the Red Sea. These mountains are rich in reddish minerals , which is why they are also called ruby mountains. During the early hours of the morning the sun’s rays illuminate the mountain, which makes it reflect on the water and it acquires this characteristic reddish hue.
There is another similar hypothesis that refers to the late afternoon when the sun goes down on the border between Israel and Egypt. At this time the sea acquires a reddish hue by serving as a mirror to the sky and, to the aforementioned idea, to the mountains and cliffs of reddish tones that surround it.