Saturday, September 17, 2016

Ocean Color

"After sleeping through a hundred million centuries we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with color, bountiful with life. Within decades we must close our eyes again. Isn’t it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it?"
Richard Dawkins

Pure water is colorless. The ocean gets its color from the absorption of color spectra and scattering of sunlight.

Bracing the Waves
by Ivan Aivazovsky, 1890

Romantic painter Ivan Aivazovsky (1817-1900) is recognized as one of the most accomplished seascape artists. Scenes depicting a range of ocean moods, like the sun, low on the horizon, illuminating the breaking wave in Bracing the Waves, constitutes the majority of his known work.

Water molecules are known to absorb proportionally more red, yellow, and green wavelengths, leaving the shades of blues and purples that Aivazovsky depicted in Among the Waves.

Among the Waves
by Ivan Aivazovsky, 1898

Suspended particles like sand or silt from coastal river runoff, will scatter sunlight as shown in the roiling shore break painted in Seascape with a Steamer.

Seascape with a Steamer
by Ivan Aivazovsky, 1897

Suspended phytoplankton contains chlorophyll. Chlorophyll absorbs red and blue wavelengths giving the ocean a greener tint.

The Ninth Wave
by Ivan Aivazovsky, 1850

"When Rachel Carson accepted the National Book Award, she said, 'if there is poetry in my book about the sea it is not because I deliberately put it there but because no one could write truthfully about the sea and leave out poetry."
― Jim Lynch, The Highest Tide