Monday, March 3, 2014

Apple #664: The Black Sea

I decided to follow up my entry on absconded president of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych's home on Mezhyhira, Ukraine with an entry about the Black Sea.  I will try to steer clear of politics or finger-pointing or unpleasantness like that and just give you some facts.

Coastline of the Black Sea in Romania
(Photo from Romania - a beautiful corner of Europe)

Aerial photo of the Black Sea.  The lighter blue swirls near the coastline are blooms of phytoplankton.
(Photo by NASA, via Wikipedia)

  • The Black Sea is an inland sea surrounded by 6 countries: Russia, Georgia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece, and Ukraine.

The Black Sea and its surrounding countries.
(Map from Marine Insight)

  • It is not a lake since the Bosporus Strait and the Dardanelles Strait connect it to the Mediterranean.
  • It has a very low level of salinity for a sea: only 17%, which is about half that of the Atlantic Ocean.  Most saltwater animals live in waters with salinity of 20%.
  • 3 of Europe's largest rivers empty into it: the Danube, the Dneiper, and the Don.
  • In spite of those rivers bringing water to it, the Black Sea is practically motionless.  It experiences no tides, and it has a large meromictic basin.  That means the water does not mix itself up, or circulate.
  • Since the water does not mix itself very much, oxygen from the surface is not brought down to the lower levels of the sea.  So in the Black Sea, any water below 200 meters is anoxic -- without oxygen.  In fact this is the largest dead zone in the world -- and it occurs naturally.

Since the waters of the Black Sea don't get mixed around, the oxygen at the surface does not get pulled down to the waters below.  Which means the deeper waters do not contain oxygen.
(Diagram from Marine Insight)

  • So, not much salt at the surface, and no oxygen at depth means this sea is not an ideal environment for fish.  But even so, lots of marine animals do live in the Black Sea
    • Crabs
    • Gobies
    • Flatfish
    • Mullets
    • Black Sea horse mackerels (looks like a mackerel, not a seahorse)
    • Pickerel
    • Damselfish
    • Sea bass
    • Mussels
    • Thornback skates
    • Dogfish

The Thornback skate is one type of fish that uses electroreception -- low pulses of electricity -- to navigate and locate prey. It also has a row of spines on its back which are sharp, though not venomous.
(Photo from

Topside, the Thornback looks fierce. The underside looks like she wants to be friends!
(Photo from

  • Also because of the lack of oxygen at low levels, wooden shipwrecks tend not to decay.  Recent diving expeditions have discovered wrecks at the bottom of the Black Sea as old as the 3rd and 5th centuries B.C.
  • Speaking of ships, the Black Sea also figures very large in maritime cultural history.  
    • Jason and the Argonauts' ultimate destination was to Colchis, across the Black Sea.
    • The shore of the Black Sea at Turkey was the home of the mythological Amazon women.
    • Noah's Ark is said to have come to rest after the waters receded on Mt. Ararat in eastern Turkey -- on the edge of the Black Sea.
  • In more recent times, a house so grand and expensive it is referred to as a palace was built on the shores of the Black Sea near a little village named Praskoveevka, in Russia.  Wikileaks revealed many photos of the grand palace and said that it was built by Vladimir Putin, paid for by money he skimmed from million-dollar donations intended to be spent on medical equipment.

Lawn of the palace said to have belonged to Vladimir Putin until it was sold for $350M in 2011.  Perhaps this is where Viktor Yanukovych got his ideas for his house?
(Photo from Wikleaks, via Wikipedia)

The master bedroom of "Putin's Palace."
(Photo from Wikileaks, via Wikipedia)

The exterior, when it was still under construction.
(Photo from Wikileaks, via the Real Estalker)

  • Crimea extends into the Black Sea.  That's where all the focus is at the moment in the discord between Ukraine and Russia.  Sevastopol, the sea port where Russia has its military base, is on the coast of Crimea.  

This building is in Sevastopol, on Artillery Bay.  Wikipedia says this building is called Nahimova, which is a monument built in commemoration of all the ships from Sevastopol that have sunk.  That doesn't speak highly of that location as a naval base, does it?
(Photo from Wikipedia)

  • Tolstoy wrote a suite of three short stories based on his experiences in the Crimean War.  They are called The Sevastopol Sketches.  
  • In "Sevastopol in May," Tolstoy reveals how, "as the bloody siege wore on he began to understand more clearly not only the horrible futility of [war], but also the base human motives and practices of men who created war and then fattened on such human folly." (Ernest J. Simmons, 1968)

Tolstoy in 1854, during the Crimean War. Nice facial hair, Lev.
(Photo via Wikipedia)

Yep.  Those are just some facts about the Black Sea, what's in it, and what surrounds it.

Before It's News, Top 10 Interesting Things You Should Know About the Black Sea, December 13, 2012
Marine Insight, 8 Amazing Facts about the Black Sea
The Living Black Sea
University of Delaware, Black Sea: The Treasures of an Ancient Sea
European Commission, The Black Sea: facts and figures
Merriam-Webster, meromictic
National Geographic, Dead Zones, Ancient Shipwrecks of the Black Sea
Mythweb, Black Sea
PBS In Search of Myths and Heroes, Jason & the Argonauts
BBC News Magazine, Putin's Palace? A mystery Black Sea mansion fit for a tsar, May 4, 2012
Business Insider, Putin's Secret Billion-Dollar Palace on the Black Sea, Feb 1, 2011
The Telegraph, 'Putin Palace' sells for $350 million, March 3, 2011

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