Endless Blue – Week 24 – All is not Blue Under the Waves   2 comments

Oceanography

All is not Blue Under the Waves

Contrary to first impressions, terrain under the oceans is not a flat, featureless horizon of silt and sand.  In actuality, submerged land has as varied a morphology as the land above the waves, perhaps more so.  Here, with sea surrounding you in every direction, the currents that affect the formation of terrain consist of water instead of air.

The flow of the currents across the world are subdivided into gyres, large sections of repetitively circulating waters that make up the basis of oceanic climate and provide the impetus for aquatic weather.  As a result of this, the terrain of the Known World is complex, with many different types of habitat overlapping in the same area.

Aquatic Vegetation

Despite being surrounded by the Endless Blue, Elqua’s underwater kingdoms are a verdant green.  Great swaths of kelp and seaweed blanket the ocean floor like the timberland and shrubbery of the surface world, with up-sweeping and enveloping growths almost re-blanketing the area.  An underwater jungle, with the greens and browns of plant life in all directions, the variety and volume of aquatic plants rivals that of our own — a rich field of broad leafy vegetation undulating in the ocean current.

It is the kelp forests and seaweed jungles that formed the basis for the nebulous borders of Elquan kingdoms.  Animals cannot exist in the open ocean without becoming easy victims to predators.  They require the dense cover and plentiful food sources the wild areas of aquatic vegetation offer.  To keep this balance intact, the political bodies of water have needed to enforce the concept of “no mer’s seas” as buffer zones — a form of environmental protection.

However, bowing under recent population explosions and exponential consumption needs, piscean cultivation has cleared a significant portion of the wild vegetation in favor of farmland dedicated to acari and ricelqua.  This clearing of sea plants has begun to devastate the natural habitat of ocean life. and for the first time the Known World is looking a little too small for its people, despite being nearly an entire hemisphere of the globe.

Sargasso Seas

Sargasso seas are an evolution of Elqua’s kelp forests and seaweed jungles that has adapted into its ecological niche by no longer needing to bury its root system into the soil.  The sargassum’s roots eke out nutrients from the water, while the leaves bobbing on the water’s surface collect sunlight.  Complete ecosystems can form on larger patches of sargasso, and in many ways become miniature versions of the  mysterious migrating islands.

The godless have turned to the sargassum as possible relief to the increasing needs of the piscean masses, and their culinists have been hard at work trying to develop better hybrids of sea plants that can produce more, faster, and with less stress on the environment.  Unfortunately the unrelenting bias against anything from above the surface of the water, coupled with political fearmongering, has stymied most of the culinists’ progress.

Coral Reefs

The great reefs of the Endless Blue are the anchor system for underwater life, providing shelter and food for so many of the indigenous life forms.  What we see as coral is actually a calcium carbonate excretion of the actual coral animal, the polyp, which lives in communities.  Many different kinds of polyps can co-exist in a reef, and each contributes to the beauty and longevity of the habitat.

On Elqua, reefs are much more common that on Earth.  About 10% of the undersea terrain is covered in coral structures, usually (but not exclusively) clustered around intersections of imperceptible lines of energy called ley lines.  These are the areas that Chelon congregate and protect as part of the xanthellae that comprises their civilization.

Oceanic Ridges

These are the hills and mountains of the world, pushing up either through the collision of tectonic plates or by volcanic eruptions depositing new earth from the lava chambers below the crust.  They can reach through all levels of the ocean — Shelf, Shoal, and Shore — and even break the surface to form the tiny island chains of Elqua.

Canyon Trenches

The flip side of oceanic ridges are the canyon trenches that line the continental shelves.  These are the deepest parts of the Endless Blue, where the reach of sunlight falters and the cold, looming water saps the warmth from most every living thing.  Ecology here is that of the scavenger, often living off of the sinking bodies of the dead.

A variation of the canyon trench are underground caverns.  Entry to such a cavern can be miles away from the actual cave, and may meander randomly and quixotically, thinning and thickening their width along the raw rocky tunnel walls.

Brine Waterways

The composition of sea water is remarkably saline, but the distribution of that salt is not uniform.  There are places in the oceans where a greater density of salt has made the liquid sink to the bottom and fill in pools, becoming lakes and rivers.  The disparity in diffused material is often so great that you can literally see a difference in the two fluids, the brine possessing an almost oily, greasy-green tint.

These lakes and rivers form waterways just as normal lakes and rivers do on the surface world, with brackish brine flowing generally downward to the lowest depths.  The lower the flow of brinewater, the thicker is becomes from the pressure.

Many piscean culinists use this brinewater as a pereserving agent in food, especially meats.  Brining food draws the water out of the meat, essentially mummifying it so that it spoils at a much more reduced rate.  In conjuction with acari’s denaturing acidity, Elquan cuisine is tangy mix of sweet and salty flavors.

Hydrothermal Vents

A hydrothermal vent is a hole in the bottom of the ocean that allows either the water above or underground springs to come in contact with molten rock from the planet’s mantle.  This contact immediately flashes the water into steam, which comes billowing as scalding hot water.  They are the closest thing the Known World has to open flame.

While the waters around these fuming vents reaches the boiling point, life still manages to flourish here, in strange forms like tube worms anchored to the sedimentary pillars that form the vent, filtering nutrients from the waters passively.

The Lumulus Basin is renown to be covered in a multitude of these ducts, and it is due to these vents that the Lumulus learned the art of metal-smithing.

Chemical Seeps

Colloquially known as “poison water”, chemical seeps are cracks in Elqua’s crust that leak chemicals into the oceans.  Substances like methane, sulfur, and hydrocarbons are the most common, but even rarer elements and compounds can be found.  The topography that forms around seep habitats are the most unique in all of Elqua, and are often the sites where surface life re-adapted for underwater life.

Sea Snow

As ludicrous an image as it may seem, it actually does snow under water.  Normally the saline and other trace elements in ocean water prevent the sea from freezing solid, and instead keep the material in a liquid form despite its temperature dropping below its freezing point.  But sometimes the conditions are right for ice crystals to form and be carried by the water currents.

This phenomenon is relegated to the lowest depths of Elqua’s oceans, where the gallon after gallon of water pressing downward actually compacts the water into its solid state through sheer force of weight.  At this depth there is little to no light, so consequently not much in the way of heat to melt the newly formed crystals, yet the fluid they are suspended in itself does not freeze.  These particles are then swept up in the ocean currents, whirling, swirling, twirling around in all direction under the grip of flowing water.  More like a flurry than falling snow, these specks can even be seen to “fall” upward as the currents drag them around until they clump together into larger chunks of ice or cling to something they impact during their travels.  Those chunks trapped at lower depths slowly increase in size as they accumulate more crystals, while those free floating ones eventually collect enough mass that buoyancy overcomes inertia and they rise upward, melting in the warmer currents closer to the surface.

Vortices

The technical term for whirlpools, a vortex is a turbulent, spinning funnel on the surface of the water with a downdraft, which may or may not reach down to the sea bed.  The water travels in a spiral pattern towards the center of the whirlpool, and is sucked downward.  They are formed by the complex interplay of Elqua’s three moons on the tides of the planet.  Further, vortices have been known to form when sinkholes open up to underground pockets of lesser dense materials, like air pockets.  These are usually the most lethal, as the unfortunate soul trapped at the bottom of such a cavern cannot swim back up the waterfall-like funnel of the whirlpool.

Not all vortexes are manic spirals of circling descent and death.  Indeed, many are quite tranquil drifts, and the more expansive of these vortices are boons to travelers and caravans that can monopolize their currents to speed travel between destinations.

Red Tide

The red tide is a colorful misnomer for a species of blooming single-celled bacteria that appear red with seasonal regularity.  The danger presented by what would normally be a smorgasbord of phytoplankton is the virulent neurotoxin these bacteria give off.  It is a quick and efficient poison, killing most everything that simply swims too close to their infected waters.

Normally avoided at all costs, the currents of Elqua’s oceans will sometimes drag the red tide right through heavily populated areas of the Known World, leaving a wake of destruction as they pass.  The civilized races consider it to be every person’s humanitarian duty to warn unsuspecting settlements of an encroaching red tide, even in times of hostility.  This is a practice shared by the Locanth, though not any of the other primitive races.

Black Water

Only a rumor, but stories have begun surfacing of a new kind of red tide.  Inky black, as if absorbing all color and light from reality, spreading blobs of oozing darkness have apparently been appearing in the most remote reaches of the hinterseas.  Unlike the red tide, this black water does not kill an unsuspecting prey, but instead slowly engulfs it within it viscous tendrils.  However, no quantifiable evidence of its existence has ever been found, and with the tale’s veracity coming from “a friend of a friend”, most discount it as superstitious nonsense.

2 responses to “Endless Blue – Week 24 – All is not Blue Under the Waves

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  1. Pingback: Endless Blue – Week 78 – Whispered Secrets in the Deep Sound Channel | Endless Blue

  2. Pingback: Endless Blue – Week 110 – Elqua Calidus: The World Scalders | Endless Blue

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