Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/480

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

depths of the ocean there is no trace of sunlight. It is highly improbable, on the face of it, that any ray of light could penetrate through a stratum of water four miles in thickness, even if the water were perfectly pure and clear, but when we remember that the upper regions, at least, are crowded with pelagic organisms provided with skeletons of lime and silica, we may justly consider that it is impossible.

The temperature of the water in the abyss is by no means constant for a constant depth, nor does it vary with the latitude. It PSM V44 D480 Sicyonis crassa.jpgFig. 2.—Sicyonis crassa: M, mouth; S, ciliated groove; T, tentacles. Each tentacle is perforated by a single large aperture. (After Hertwig.) is true that, as a rule, the water is colder at greater depths than in shallower ones, and that the deeper the thermometer is lowered into the sea, the lower the mercury sinks. This is consistent with physical laws. If there is any difference at all in the temperature of a column of water that has had time to settle, the thermometer will always reach its highest point at the top of the column and its lowest at the bottom, for the colder particles being of greater specific gravity than the warmer ones will sink, and the warmer ones will rise. The truth of this will be clear if we imagine a locality at the bottom of a deep ocean with a source of great heat such as an active volcano.

Such a source of heat would, it is true, raise the temperature of the water in its immediate vicinity, but the particles of water thus heated would immediately commence to rise through the superjacent layers of colder water, and colder particles would fall to take their places. Thus the effect of an active volcano at the bottom of the deep sea would not be apparent at any very great distance in the same plane. In fact, unless the bottom of the ocean was closely studded with volcanoes we should expect to find, as indeed we do find, that the temperature of the sea rises as the water shallows.

If then we were to consider a great ocean as simply a huge basin of water, we should expect to find the water at the surface warmer than the water at the bottom. The temperature of the surface would vary constantly with the temperature of the air