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The Mediterranean Sea is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean that is almost completely surrounded by land. This inland sea is bordered by Asia on the eastern side, Europe on the north side, and Africa on the south. Although it is mostly landlocked, it does connect to the Atlantic Ocean through the Strait of Gibraltar and to the Black Sea through the Bosporus, the Dardanelles, and the Sea of Marmara. Moreover, the Suez Canal connects the Mediterranean with the Red Sea. In oceanography, this sea is sometimes called the “European Mediterranean Sea” or the “Eurafrican Mediterranean” to differentiate it from the other mediterranean seas found in different parts of the world.
The Mediterranean Sea is about 2,400 miles (3862 kilometers) long and its average depth is around 5,040 feet (1.53 km). Covering an area of approximately 965,000 square miles (2,500,000 square km), it is ringed by a long, winding coastline full of mountains and peninsulas. The regions around the sea typically have wet winters and warm, dry summers. Because of the abundant sunshine the area receives for much of the year, common crops include olives, oranges, tangerines, grapes, and cork. About 400 species of fish currently live in the Mediterranean, and corals and sponges are still quite plentiful.
Often called “the cradle of civilization,” the Mediterranean Sea was an important trading route for the merchants and travelers of ancient times. It was first used as a commercial highway by Phoenician merchants, but the Romans, Greeks, and Italians later competed for dominance of the Mediterranean’s shores and, therefore, the bulk of the trade. The importance of this trading route increased after the opening of the man-made Suez Canal in 1869.
In recent years, mankind has greatly altered the geology of the Mediterranean’s region. Dams, structures, buildings, and canals have been built up and down the once-pristine coastlines, leading to increased and rerouted erosional patterns. The resorts along the coastline are creating extremely polluted beaches. There are many boats traveling the Mediterranean, which has lead to a high rate of water pollution that is altering the Mediterranean Sea’s natural chemicals and destroying the marine life.
Surrounding countries are attempting to conserve and protect the entire Mediterranean region. These countries have been working together to try and eliminate toxic waste disposal into the Sea. Despite these efforts, the overuse and pollution of the marine and natural resources continues to be a problem.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Mediterranean Sea and where is it located?
The Mediterranean Sea is a vast body of water that lies between Europe to the north, Africa to the south, and Asia to the east. It connects to the Atlantic Ocean through the Strait of Gibraltar in the west and to the Red Sea via the Suez Canal in the southeast. This sea has been a crucial maritime route for trade and cultural exchange throughout history.
How large is the Mediterranean Sea and what is its depth?
The Mediterranean Sea covers an area of approximately 2.5 million square kilometers, making it the largest of the world's semi-enclosed seas. Its average depth is about 1,500 meters, with the deepest recorded point being the Calypso Deep in the Ionian Sea, reaching depths of about 5,267 meters, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
What countries have coastlines along the Mediterranean Sea?
There are 21 countries with coastlines along the Mediterranean Sea, including Spain, France, Monaco, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. These countries have diverse cultures and histories influenced by their proximity to the sea.
What is the climate like around the Mediterranean Sea?
The Mediterranean climate is characterized by hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters. This climate is conducive to the growth of a variety of plant species, including the iconic olive trees. The region's climate has made it a popular tourist destination, especially during the warm summer months.
What is the ecological significance of the Mediterranean Sea?
The Mediterranean Sea is home to a rich biodiversity, with about 17,000 marine species, many of which are endemic, meaning they are found nowhere else on Earth. However, the sea faces significant environmental threats, such as overfishing, pollution, and habitat destruction, which have led to various conservation efforts to protect its unique ecosystems.
What historical significance does the Mediterranean Sea hold?
The Mediterranean Sea has been a cradle of civilization for thousands of years, with ancient cultures such as the Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans flourishing along its shores. It has been a vital corridor for trade, warfare, and cultural exchange, shaping the history and development of the surrounding regions.
What are the major economic activities in the Mediterranean region?
The Mediterranean region supports a wide range of economic activities, including tourism, which is a major industry due to the area's rich history and pleasant climate. Additionally, the sea is important for fishing and aquaculture, maritime trade, and oil and gas exploration. The coastal areas are also known for their agriculture, producing olives, grapes, and citrus fruits.