The Red Sea
Geographically, the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf areas have
only recently become seas. The Red Sea occupies a portion of a zone of
depression and faulting called the Great Rift Valley. The Red Sea was created by
the movement of plates in the Earth's surface about 30 million years ago. In
that time, the Arab peninsula started to part from Africa along a thin break
line which was filled by the ocean's water. Twenty million years ago another
geological movement started. The Arab peninsula which parted from Africa,
started to move to the north. (see Plate Tectonics). That movement struck
resistance in Turkey and swung to the east, and another break line was formed.
This one stretching all the way from the northern part of Israel, through the
Jordan valley to the Dead Sea, and finally through the Gulf of Eilat to Ras
Mohamad at the southern point of the Sinai. Hydrothermal vents on the seafloor are evidence of
ongoing tectonic activity. The Red Sea is still widening at about one-half inch
On this map the evidence is clear that eons ago
Arabian Peninsula and Africa formed one land mass.
The waters of the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea have
filled the gap formed when the continents separated.
The Red Sea is 2,350 kilometers in length and reaches its maximum width of
350 kilometers at the Eritrean coast. With the opening of the Suez Canal, in
1869, connecting the Red Sea with the Mediterranean Sea, The Red Sea
increased both in strategic and economical importance, making possible a
comparatively direct sea route between Europe and The Far East. The principal
Red Sea ports include Suez and Al Qusayr in Egypt, Port Sudan and Sawakin in
Sudan, Massawa and
Assab in Eritrea, Jeddah in Saudi Arabia,
and Al Hudaydah and Mocha (Al Mukha) in Yemen.
The Red Sea is perhaps the most extraordinary large body of water
on earth. It is an enormous basin locked in the north by the Suez Canal and
in the south by the Strait of Bab al Mandeb, just 300 feet deep, thereby clearly
cut off from the currents of the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, resulting
in the elimination of the tidal system.
Each polyp of the red sea fan is an individual animal that opens for feeding.
The colony creates the branching skeletal casing upon which they
The Red Sea has a higher salinity than any ocean (ranging from 39 parts per
1,000 at the southern end up to 41 parts per 1,000 at the Gulf of Suez, versus a more 'normal' 36 parts per
thousand. No rivers run into it. Scorched by tropical sun and seared by desert drought -
annual rainfall averages less than an inch - it loses each year
through evaporation the equivalent of about six feet of water.
To replace this huge deficit, water flows in chiefly from the
Indian Ocean through shallow Bab al Mandab, the strait at the
Most ocean depths are cold, but the Red Sea holds warm abyssal
water, especially in certain volcanic depths where temperatures
reach 138° Fahrenheit. These hot spots hoard potential
fortunes of immeasurable worth: in places 5,000 times more iron,
25,000 times more manganese, and 30,000 times more lead then
normal seawater. And the value of the gold, silver, copper, and
zinc in the upper 30 - of a possible 300 - feet of sediments
alone has been estimated at more than two billion dollars.
Series of stamps issued by the Eritrean Postal Services, dedicated to the
fauna of the Eritrean Dahlak Islands,
famous for their diving opportunities.
The Red Sea is the world's last great unspoiled tropical paradise,
where every scuba diver or snorkeller has something to explore. The Red Sea is one of the richest areas in the world. There are over 1,000 species of fish, 2,000 species of invertebrates, and 180 species of corals. Many of these species are indigenous to the Red Sea. Among the corals and anemones
you can spot tough-beaked parrotfish, big-eyed squirrel fish, disc-shaped
surgeon fish and countless other species. There are manta rays with wing
spans of many meters, and there are the famous Red Sea sharks. Despite
their reputation, however, shark attacks on swimmers in the area are very rare.
Giant sea turtles lay their eggs on the sandy beaches. Pods of dolphins can
appear to play around the boat, and even giant dugongs or sea cows are sometimes
seen. And there are seabirds - sterns, seagulls, sand plovers, herons, pelicans.
The Indian Ocean, though the sea's southern bottleneck at
Bab al Mandab, has been the primordial source for most living
things in its oceanic offshoot. Thus the Red Sea is a kind of
special-environment incubator for the evolution of immigrant
Indian Ocean species. Some scientists believe the number of fish
species unique to the Red Sea runs as high as 15 percent of the
total found there. For most, the pedigree can be traced back to
a cousin in the Indian Ocean. In 1989 international experts and scientists picked
the Red Sea as one of the seven underwater wonders of the world, offering a diverse multitude of reefs, wall, wrecks and abundant marine life.
The Red Sea is one of the world's most celebrated diving locations,
boasting an amazing variety of coral and fish life in clear waters.
The Red Sea takes its name from the seasonal abundance of cyanobacteria Trichodesmium Erythraceum, minute
algae, that have a brownish-red pigment. These algae, which live near the surface of the sea, bloom at certain times of the
year, the "red tide". They appear like groups of red and pinkish blankets on the surface of
the water. After the bloom, the algae die, and they turn the sea reddish-brown.
Weeks can go by with hardly a puff of wind over the sea. The calm surface catches fire at sunrise
and sunset, reflecting rosy heavens and the glowing pink hills that border this sea.
Author E.M. Forster stated that the "exquisite corridor of tinted mountains and radiant water" was named
Mare Rostrum (Latin for Red Sea) by early travelers because of the region's reddish mineral-rich mountains.
Spectacular coral gardens in the Red Sea.
Scattered across the Red Sea like pearls upon a string,
Eritrea's more than 350 islands have been described as the world's last
unspoiled tropical paradise. The Eritrean Red Sea coast and islands provide
opportunities for sea cruise holidays, scuba-diving, fishing and other water