Wednesday, May 20, 2009


The other day our friend Rob said, "New Caledonia lagoon is a perfect spot to see green flashes."

That statement left me with so many questions.

First up, what the heck is a green flash? As Rob explained and Wikipedia confirms, it is an optical phenomena on an obstructed horizon when a quick green flash is visible just above the setting sun.

Once we cleared that up, I wondered about the definition of "lagoon," which also made me wonder about sounds and bays and so many other names we have for bodies of water. That seems like something a sailor should know.

Lagoon: a shallow salt or brackish body of water separated from a deeper sea by a sandbar or coral reef. The body of water behind a barrier reef or barrier islands is also called a lagoon. Who knew? We've been sailing on a lagoon behind our house!

Sound: Wikipedia's definition says it's a large sea or ocean inlet larger than a bay, deeper than a bight, wider than a fjord, or it may identify a narrow sea or ocean channel between two bodies of land (see also strait).

Bay: Water surrounded by land on three sides.

Bight: A body of water that is like a sound but shallower.

Fjord: A narrow inlet with steep sides created by glacial activity.

Strait: A narrow, navigable channel of water that connects two larger navigable bodies of water.

Ocean: A major body of saline water, and a principal component of the hydrosphere. Approximately 72% of the Earth's surface is covered by ocean, a continuous body of water that is customarily divided into several principal oceans and smaller seas.

Sea: Most commonly, a sea may refer to a large expanse of saline water connected with an ocean, but it is also used sometimes for a large saline lake that lacks a natural outlet.

Gulf: A large bay that is an arm of an ocean or sea.

The world's oceans are:

The top ten seas by size:
South China
Bering Sea
Gulf of Mexico

(By the way, that's New Caledonia lagoon in the photo. The picture came from a web site that didn't list the photographer.)

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