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The salty, salty sea

September 3, 2011

Is not the same everywhere

Which might be handy one day

I swam in two seas this summer, the Baltic off the east coast of Sweden and the channel off England’s south coast.  The Baltic is much less salty.   The difference is obvious when the first drops enter your mouth; you even float higher in the English Channel.

Amazing.  I had assumed that salinity evened out in the connected seas of the world. Not in the Baltic. It is like a wide river flowing out into the North Sea through the Kattegat. Each year it receives nearly a quarter of its volume in freshwater from the surrounding rivers. It even contains different species that prefer the brackish water.

People have suggested creating a huge freshwater lake by damming part of the Baltic – presumably leaving locks for shipping.   It’s not quite as mad as it sounds.

If global warming, population explosion, and other alarmists are to be believed, freshwater might one day be in shorter supply than energy.  I’m doubtful, but it’s nice to know that just as the Canadian, and other, tar sands set an upper limit on the world price of oil, so damming the Baltic could one day do the same for freshwater.

Jim Thornton

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