Controlling the flow

It is little known that a great, secret underwater river flows beneath a sea, and into an ancient conduit which has channeled the global tides for millennia.

Yes: it is possible for a river to flow beneath a sea, according to researchers from the University of Leeds, who used a small yellow robotic submarine to observe the way an undersea river actually works.

Water in a hurry picks up sand and mud and speed: and somewhere along the line it becomes denser than the seawater surrounding it, and sinks to the bottom.

The underwater rivers become a super-highway for sediment. Ah, you say, but all rivers flow to the sea. Indeed they do: and undersea rivers are hard-core. They flow to the deep sea, where they drop their load and thus facilitate gas and oil beyond the dreams of avarice.

The research from Leeds, carried out in 2010 by Dr Dan Parsons and Dr Jeff Peakall, discovered that water behaves differently when it is part of  a deep-sea river, specifically when it turns a corner.

It moves in the opposite direction to that of a land-locked river.

The secret underwater river to which I refer lies beneath the Mediterranean, and flows into a thin channel which links the sea over which Odysseus so briefly sailed, the Aegean, and the Black Sea: The Bosphorus.

There is one theory which speculates that it was this channel which was the cause of a yarn which might have its origins more than 7,000 years ago: the tale of Noah himself.

Academics William Ryan and Walter Pitman took the world by storm in 1996 in a research paper which was picked up by the New York Times. They had analysed deposits around the area of the Black Sea dating back to 5600BC: and they claimed to have found evidence for the great flood chronicled by the bible in Genesis.

The Black Sea was a huge freshwater lake draining into the Aegean back then. Global conditions cause the Mediterranean to rise, while some of the rivers draining into the Black Sea dried up and it is thought  its level fell.

The rising Mediterranean finally spilled over a sill in the Bosphorus, the researchers assert. The flow, they estimated, would have been 200 times that of Niagra Falls, daily. The suddenness and strength of the event have been questioned by academics since: but oh, what an event, if it were true! Our minds latch onto the story of the Black Sea which, if the research were correct, flooded 60,000 additional square miles of land.

We will never know how much warning Noah had.

He counted the animals on to the ship, the tale goes. The King James version says every clean animal should be brought on by the sevens, every unclean animal by the twos; male and female, to preserve the bloodlines.

If it was ever built, what a ship that must have been. HMS Genesis: the first counting exercise aimed at preserving species for future mankind.

The latest counting exercise here in the UK was very recent indeed: for today they were counting animals at London Zoo.

The Zoo has a very different remit to its traditional one, these days: it is there to preserve species. It is run by the Zoological Society of London: its mission statement: To promote and achieve worldwide conservation for animals and their habitats.

Talk about controlling the flow. I was ironing, watching the news this morning as counters attempted good-naturedly to count the locusts. Just how, asked an incredulous reporter, do you intend to do that?

Oh, we estimate, the counter rejoined amiably. It’s impossible to count every one. They’re having babies all the time.

Stocktaking is as essential to the zoo as it is to any shop. Its charges are the rarest of breeds: two lion cubs have joined since last year; macaroni, blackfooted and rockhopper penguins are all on the roles of the esteemed establishment. Spiders, camels, you name it, they counted it: around 18,500 creatures in total.

Here is a modern-day ark: a place where animals are counted in and counted out in a bid to preserve species, male and female.

But the nature of the modern-day deluge – that which makes it essential to conserve endangered species: is less elemental and more complex than a great flood. And the solution cannot be  found by building a great big boat.

Darwin might argue that that’s evolution, baby. But it seems churlish to allow only the very fittest to survive. We’ve become attached to the creatures who threaten to disappear without our intervention.

And so, in the face of that most relentless of deluges, – evolution itself – we continue to build our arks and surf tsunamis for our disappearing earthly companions.

Picture source here


38 thoughts on “Controlling the flow

  1. Oh, indeed underwater rivers not only exist, but, were the primary trade-wind, shipping rout, that discovered America…(Gulf Stream) and as someone who lives just off shore of the graveyard of the Atlantic… I can attest to the sharp right turn Dilemma…I mean, everyone knows even us salty-dawg nascar fans…can only make left turns. GO BIG AL!!!!

    Hehe..God is Awesome isn’t He…amazing how He has us navigating different waters of the same Global Flood…
    Bless you

    1. Yes: why DID he include them? And wasps. And slugs, for that matter. And – from your neck on the woods- the parktown prawn?
      Still, orders is orders.

      Happy New Year, Tandy 🙂

  2. I very much like the idea of London Zoo as an Ark. I also love the image of the controllers counting locusts whizzing around and reproducing!

    1. It must be a recipe for chaos, mustn’t it, EB? It certainly looked that way as the reporter stood outside the counting room, and we watched hem whizzing around…how do you estimate a swarm of locusts??

  3. What a wonder to think about; the force of the water in the undersea river, against it’s own element.

    the flood seems to have so many scattered pieces of evidence, doesn’t it? sometimes I wonder if it was 1 flood, or stories gathered about several and of tsunamis

    1. I guess we’ll never know for sure, Sidey. Although there is no evidence whatsoever for a global washout. The ‘known world’ was different things to different men, back then…

  4. History can be so interesting, Kate. Of course, depending on who’s doing the telling, it can also be very boriing, lol! I have found this post MOST interesting and, oddly, reassuring!

  5. Very interesting and entertaining, our existence on earth is fragile and there is so much dependency on all species surviving to support that continued existence. Survival of the fittest will continue to be the dominant rules in play, but, to the London Zoo’s credit, it is good to try to perpetuate the weaker species in a controlled environment.

    I guess I still have a hard time in figuring out what positive role mosquitoes play and would have no problem if they moved to Mars.

    1. I wonder, if we annihilated every last mosquito, would bloggers in the far flung future extol their virtues?
      Probably not. I feel sure it would be looked back on as the wiping out of an epidemic.

      1. Which has no apparent value until much further down the timeline. And I usually notice more gas at the end of those floating along the surface, frantically waving their arms.

  6. Strangely enough I have just been reading about the Hudson River which in geological terms is known as a “drowned” river. The former riverbed is clearly delineated beneath the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, extending to the edge of the continental shelf.

  7. I think they have found underwater shoreline evidence of settlements and structures at least 50 or more miles from the current shoreline of the Black Sea which supports a flood theory from last Ice Age super melt 15,000 years ago, I think. They have found European DNA in current populations of Native American Indians of eastern coast of Carolinas USA.So it has been suggested that the glaciers extended across the top of the Atlantic allowing Europeans to cross the edge in a 3,000 miles trek much like Asians crossed the once land bridge from eastern Russia to Alaska.

  8. Things like these are at the heart of the best story telling. People like to imagine how we got here, what made mountains and rivers and seas form the ways they did, and what’s percolating under the surface to start the next round of great change.

    Locally, the land upon which my house sits used to be under the Atlantic Ocean. If global warming predictions are true, it will someday be submerged again, leaving the rivers that run on either side of the peninsula upon which I live to flow under the sea. Maybe that’s fitting, since old Charlestonians will tell you that the Ashley and Cooper Rivers come together in Charleston Harbor to form the Atlantic Ocean. 🙂

    1. What a thought, Andra! It’s awe-inspiring to think of life of that scale: that overground rivers will turn once more into submerged ones, and all our human paraphernalia will be as nothing.

      I do like to pull in my horns and return to human lifescale, though. Too much staring at eternity gives me the wobblies.

  9. Back in my early Sunday School days I made great “proof” of the one Great Flood from the fossil evidence, marine life included, in some local mountains. It’s a fascinating mental migration and all I really care about is the love of the mystery as I enjoy considering how amazing and complex the natural world is with all systems working together. I was ancient myself before I really tapped into my very limited understanding of geologic time with shifting land masses and the understanding of our connecting oceans/climate change…whew! The zoo count is an amazing undertaking… and alas, no Dodos, right? You’ve tackled some high-level complexities here, Kate. Debra

    1. No dodos, you’re right there, Debbie. Geology is fascinating: it forces our mind out of the small scale of human lives and into the arena of huge, global changes. Looking at todays changing world through that lens is quite interesting.

  10. Our continual encroachment on their habitat demonstrates our lack of understanding about the interconnection of all things.

    We owe our fellow mortals an abject apology, per Robbie Burns:

    I’m truly sorry Man’s dominion
    Has broken Nature’s social union,
    An’ justifies that ill opinion,
    Which makes thee startle,
    At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
    An’ fellow-mortal!

  11. The idea of guestimating the locusts seems somewhat Stoppardian. I imagine Arcadia’s Thomasina and Septimus poring over an equation of flying insects, ever multiplying and subtracting, in constant motion…

  12. Its amazing what they keep discovering under the Bosphorus, they found a palace there in the last few years, but I can’t remember the details or find a link to it.

  13. Wow, that would have been some waterfall! The stories of the flood are so fascinating – the many permutations of the same tale but in different parts of the world – the epic of Gilgamesh, the bible etc., – what the hell happened back then – haha. Great post Kate 🙂

    1. We’ll never know for sure, Gabrielle…all the old accounts give us tantalising hints but because they’re obscured by story they’re hard to discern. As you say: amazing stuff.

  14. I wonder if Noah had any bees on that ark – they are apparently disappearing at a rate of knots, to the extent that in some parts of China the farmers are hand-pollinating.

    1. I had no idea that was happening, BB! We need a huge ark just for the hives! There are things we can do to promote habitats aren’t there? Lets make this the summer of the bee…

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