The Sea--Gods' CornucopiaThis picture shows a shell that is curled in a Fibonacci spiral, a shape that inspires us with its beauty. For many of us seeing a shell with that shape brings memories of pieces of art that show many wonderful things flowing out of such a shell--food, drink, and many wonderful pleasures of life. The fact is that the oceans are in fact enormous treasure houses for man, and as we learn more about the earth's oceans, we realize more and more how important the oceans are to our survival.
It is not just the fish, shrimp, or lobster that are the blessings that we are describing. It is true that the oceans contain a great wealth of biomass that can address man's food problems on the earth. The very fact that these forms of life lay thousands and thousands of eggs that can provide massive of amounts of food for man quickly is a testimony to the fact that there is a vast treasure chest of food that man can use to solve his nutrition problems. We are starting to farm these resources, and the potential for massive amounts of food which can be grown quickly and with minimal environmental impact is clear. The sea is a tool we have been given to solve many of the problems of mankind, but food is only one of the blessings that come from the sea.
The oceans of the world are also the providers of water for the land. Massive amounts of water are lifted from the sea by evaporation. They condense on condensation nuclei provided by the salts in the sea, and they are deposited on the land providing the vital water needed by all land forms of life. The sea also moderates temperatures on the earth. When the earth is closest to the sun, its tilt exposes the southern hemisphere to the sun's radiation. The southern hemisphere is made up of mostly water with massive amounts of the earth's southern surface being covered by oceans. Water reflects much of this radiation, and what is absorbed is stored in water which has a high specific heat. The water carries this heat to the polar areas of the planet, moderating temperatures and allowing life to exist in abundance at these latitudes. When the earth is at its greatest distance from the sun, the northern hemisphere is tilted toward the sun so that the land is exposed to the sun's radiation. Land absorbs more of this radiation and reflects less of it. The waters in the southern hemisphere use their stored energy to fill in the energies not available from the sun moderating the losses that would otherwise occur.
In addition to the thermodynamic uses of the sea, the oceans also control the gases that are critical for life to exist on the earth. Most of our oxygen is produced by photosynthetic processes taking place in the sea. In recent years we have learned that the oceans are a great carbon sink, reducing the amount of carbon dioxide that would be in our atmosphere were the oceans not there. This not only restricts the negative greenhouse effects of carbon dioxide, but also recycles carbon in ways that benefit the entire planetary ecosystem.
Another benefit the oceans provide is in the mineral wealth that the oceans hold. When someone talks about the salts in the ocean, they are not just talking about sodium chloride (normal table salt). The oceans contain a wide variety of elements that are critical to man's physical well being--iodine, magnesium, copper, and copious trace elements whose biological functions are the subject of a great deal of scientific research in modern chemical laboratories. People who live far from the ocean are still benefitted from these mineral resources, because many land deposits of these minerals were deposited by oceans that existed in their areas many years ago. Oceans gather and store the things that man needs, and while in the past these resources have been mined from areas that are no longer in the sea, we are now learning to take these elements directly from the sea itself.
As man looks for life elsewhere in the cosmos, it is becoming less and less likely that he will find it unless he can find a planetary environment that hold oceans comparable to those that we see on earth. The sea is a beautiful feature unique to planet Earth, and it is a cornucopia of benefits to mankind. No other planet in our system has anything like it, and as more observations are made of other stars and other solar systems it is becoming increasingly obvious that planets like ours with large quantities of oceans are at best exceedingly rare. God has provided for man in many ways, and the ocean speaks eloquently of the wisdom and power of the creator.
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