Sunday, July 14, 2024

The Formation of the Red Sea

Written By Anoushka Chopra (Grade 8)

The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean that separates Asia and Africa. It is connected to the ocean in the south through the Bab El Mandeb Strait and the Gulf of Aden. The Sinai Peninsula, The Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez surround the sea on the North while the Red Sea Rift borders it on the South.

With the maximum width of the sea being 190 miles, the greatest depth being 9974 feet, and the area being approximately 174,000 square miles, the Red Sea is one of the most saline water bodies. The Red Sea contains cyanobacteria called Trichodesmium Erythraeum, which turns the normally blue-green water reddish-brown, giving the sea its name.

Millions of years ago the African and Arabian plates were connected. Due to a continental rift, the two plates were pushed apart which resulted in the creation of a rift valley between them. The Indian Ocean flooded the rift valley now formed, which in turn created the Red Sea. It can be said that the sea was formed due to the divergence between the African and Arabian plates.

The rift started in the Eocene (a geographical era that lasted from about 56 million years ago – 33.9 million years ago) and only accelerated during the Oligocene (another geological era that extends from about 33.9 million to 23 million years before the present), to further facilitate the separation of Western Arabia from Africa. Eventually, the gap between Arabia and Africa widened and experts believe that the rift will continue to stretch, leading to the formation of an ocean.

The first major rift motion was followed by major seafloor spreading in the late Eocene and early Oligocene. This was followed by a period of no motion, during which a large number of sedimentary rocks known as evaporites were deposited. After this quiet period of deposition, a new period of activity started about five million years ago. 

The Red Sea, apart from having vibrant coral reefs and being one of the most-visited spots for scuba diving, is also a vital trade route that has been used for commerce since ancient Egyptian times. It has now made transport much easier.

The Red Sea, containing some of the world’s hottest and saltiest seawater is home to more than 1,200 species of fish, including 44 species of sharks (of which 20% are found only in the Red Sea) and remains to be one of the most popular places for tourism, attracting a large number of tourists worldwide.

Featured Image Courtesy – Woods Hole Oceanographic Instituition


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