1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Sargasso Sea

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SARGASSO SEA, a tract of the North Atlantic Ocean, covered with floating seaweed (Sargassum, originally named sargaço by the Portuguese). This tract is bounded approximately by 25° and 30° N. and by 38° and 60° W., but its extent varies according to winds and ocean currents. By these agencies the weed is carried and massed together, the original source of supply being probably the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico (see Algae). Similar circumstances lead to the existence of other similar tracts covered with floating weed, e.g. in the solitary part of the Pacific Ocean, north of the Hawaiian islands, between 30° and 40° N. and between 150° and 180° W. There is a smaller tract S.E. of New Zealand, and along a belt of the southern ocean extending from the Falkland Islands, south of Africa and south-west of Australia, similar floating banks of weed are encountered. The Sargasso Sea was discovered by Columbus, who on his first voyage was involved in it for about a fortnight. The widely credited possibility of ships becoming embedded in the weed, and being unable to escape, is disproved by the expedition of the “ Michael Sars,” under the direction of Sir John Murray and the Norwegian government, in 1910, which found the surface covered with weed only in patches, not continuously.