Page:EB1911 - Volume 02.djvu/904

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ATLANTIC OCEAN

bathymetrical maps published were largely the result of deductions based on one sounding taken by Ross in 68° 34′ S. lat., 12° 49′ W. long., in which he recorded a depth exceeding 4000 fathoms. The Scottish Antarctic expedition has shown this sounding to be erroneous; the “Scotia” obtained samples of bottom, in almost the same spot, from a depth of 2660 fathoms. Combining the results of recent soundings, Dr W. S. Bruce, the leader of the Scottish expedition, finds that there is a ridge “extending in a curve from Madagascar to Bouvet Island, and from Bouvet Island to the Sandwich group, whence there is a forked connexion through the South Orkneys to Graham’s Land, and through South Georgia to the Falkland Islands and the South American continent.” Again, the central ridge of the South Atlantic extends a thousand miles farther south than was supposed, joining the east and west ridge, just described, between the Bouvet Islands and the Sandwich group.

The foundations of our knowledge of the relief of the Atlantic basin may be said to have been laid by the work of H.M.S. “Challenger” (1873-1876), and the German ship “Gazelle” (1874-1876), the French expedition in the “Travailleur” (1880), and the U.S. surveying vessel “Blake” (1877 and later). Large numbers of additional soundings have been made in recent years by cable ships, by the expeditions of H.S.H. the prince of Monaco, the German “Valdivia” expedition under Professor Chun (1898), and the combined Antarctic expeditions (1903-1904).

The Atlantic Ocean contains a relatively small number of islands. The only continental groups, besides some islands in the Mediterranean, are Iceland, the British Isles, Islands. Newfoundland, the West Indies, and the Falklands, and the chief oceanic islands are the Azores, Madeira, the Canaries, the Cape Verde Islands, Ascension, St Helena, Tristan da Cunha and Bouvet Island.

The mean depth of the North Atlantic is, according to G. Karstens, 2047 fathoms. If we include the enclosed seas, the North Atlantic has a mean depth of 1800 Mean depth, and bottom deposits. fathoms. The South Atlantic has a mean depth of 2067 fathoms.

The greater part of the bottom of the Atlantic is covered by a deposit of Globigerina ooze, roughly the area between 1000 and 3000 fathoms, or about 60% of the whole. At a depth of about 3000 fathoms, i.e. in the “Deeps,” the Globigerina ooze gradually gives place to red clay. In the shallower tropical waters, especially on the central ridge, considerable areas are covered by Pteropod ooze, a deposit consisting largely of the shells of pelagic molluscs. Diatom ooze is the characteristic deposit in high southern latitudes. The terrigenous deposits consist of blue muds, red muds (abundant along the coast of Brazil, where the amount of organic matter present is insufficient to reduce the iron in the matter brought down by the great rivers to produce blue muds), green muds and sands, and volcanic and coral detritus.

The question of the origin of the Atlantic basin, like that of the other great divisions of the hydrosphere, is still unsettled. Most geologists include the Atlantic with the other oceans in the view they adopt as to its age; but E. Suess and M. Neumayr, while they regard the basin of the Pacific as of great antiquity, believe the Atlantic to date only from the Mesozoic age. Neumayr finds evidence of the existence of a continent between Africa and South America, which protruded into the central North Atlantic, in Jurassic times. F. Kossmat has shown that the Atlantic had substantially its present form during the Cretaceous period.

In describing the mean distribution of temperature in the waters of the Atlantic it is necessary to treat the northern and southern divisions separately. The heat equator, or line of maximum mean surface temperature, starts Distribution of temperature. from the African coast in about 5° N. lat., and closely follows that parallel to 40° W. long., where it bends northwards to the Caribbean Sea. North of this line, near which the temperature is a little over 80° F., the gradient trends somewhat to the east of north, and the temperature is slightly higher on the western than on the eastern side until, in 45° N. lat., the isothermal of 60° F. runs nearly east and west. Beyond this parallel the gradient is directed towards the north-west, and temperatures are much higher on the European than on the American side. From the surface to 500 fathoms the general form of the isothermals remains the same, except that instead of an equatorial maximum belt there is a focus of maximum temperature off the eastern coast of the United States. This focus occupies a larger area and becomes of greater relative intensity as the depth increases until, at 500 fathoms, it becomes an elongated belt extending right across the ocean in about 30° N. lat. Below 500 fathoms the western centres of maximum disappear, and higher temperatures occur in the eastern Atlantic off the Iberian peninsula and north-western Africa down to at least 1000 fathoms; at still greater depths temperature gradually becomes more and more uniform. The communication between the Atlantic and Arctic basins being cut off, as already described, at a depth of about 300 fathoms, the temperatures in the Norwegian Sea below that level are essentially Arctic, usually below the freezing-point of fresh water, except where the distribution is modified by the surface circulation. The isothermals of mean surface temperature in the South Atlantic are in the lower latitudes of an ~-shape, temperatures being higher on the American than on the African side. In latitudes south of 30° S. the curved form tends to disappear, the lines running more and more directly east and west. Below the surface a focus of maximum temperature appears off the coast of South America in about 30° S. lat., and of minimum temperature north and north-east of this maximum. This distribution is most marked at about 300 fathoms, and disappears at 500 fathoms, beyond which depth the lines tend to become parallel and to run east and west, the gradient slowly diminishing.

The Atlantic is by far the saltest of the great oceans. Its saltest waters are found at the surface in two belts, one extending east and west in the North Atlantic between 20° and 30° N. lat., and another of almost equal salinity Salinity. extending eastwards from the coast of South America in 10° to 20° S. lat. In the equatorial region between these belts the salinity is markedly less, especially in the eastern part. North of the North Atlantic maximum the waters become steadily fresher as latitude increases until the channels opening into the Arctic basin are reached. In all of these water of relatively high salinity usually appears for a long distance towards the north on the eastern side of the channel, while on the western side the water is comparatively fresh; but great variations occur at different seasons and in different years. In the higher latitudes of the South Atlantic the salinity diminishes steadily and tends to be uniform from east to west, except near the southern extremity of South America, where the surface waters are very fresh. Our knowledge of the salinity of waters below the surface is as yet very defective, large areas being still unrepresented by a single observation. The chief facts already established are the greater saltness of the North Atlantic compared with the South Atlantic at all depths, and the low salinity at all depths in the eastern equatorial region, off the Gulf of Guinea.

The wind circulation over the Atlantic is of a very definite character. In the South Atlantic the narrow land surfaces of Africa and South America produce comparatively little effect in disturbing the normal planetary circulation. Meteorology. The tropical belt of high atmospheric pressure is very marked in winter; it is weaker during the summer months, and at that season the greater relative fall of pressure over the land cuts it off into an oval-shaped anticyclone, the centre of which rests on the coolest part of the sea surface in that latitude, near the Gulf of Guinea. South of this anticyclone, from about the latitude of the Cape, we find the region where, on account of the uninterrupted sea surface right round the globe, the planetary circulation is developed to the greatest extent known; the pressure gradient is steep, and the region is swept continuously by strong westerly winds—the “roaring forties.”

In the North Atlantic the distribution of pressure and resulting wind circulation are very largely modified by the enormous areas of land and frozen sea which surround the ocean on three sides. The tropical belt of high pressure persists all the year