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The Red Sea is a bay of the Indian Ocean between Africa and Asia. It has an area of around 174,000 square miles. This seawater inlet is about 1,200 miles long and about 190 miles wide at its widest point.
Six African and Asian nations border the Red Sea: Yemen and Saudi Arabia to the east, Egypt to the north and west, and Sudan, Eritrea and Djibouti to the west.
How deep is the Red Sea?
The depth of the Red Sea varies greatly depending on location. The deepest point in the sea is the Suakin Trough at 9,970 feet. The Suakin Trough is so deep and inaccessible that until recently humans could not explore it. In 2020, a crew including famed explorer Victor Vescovo finally explored the depths of the Red Sea in a manned submersible for the first time in history.
However, the Suakin Trough is not an indication of the depth of the Red Sea over its entire area. 40% of the Red Sea is less than 100 meters deep. There are shallow shelves throughout the sea that are home to amazing coral and marine life. Allowing for these shallow shelves in contrast to the extreme depths of the Suakin Trough, the Red Sea’s average depth is about 1,608 feet.
The water of the Red Sea
The water of the Red Sea is not red. They are usually a nice bluish green. Nobody knows exactly where the name comes from. Many suspect that it is a mistranslation of the Red Sea from the Hebrew narrative of Exodus. Others suggest that the name comes from the Trichodesmium erythraeum Algal blooms that can temporarily turn the water red-brown. However, nobody can be sure about the origin of the name.
As the northernmost tropical sea in the world, the water is very warm. The average water temperature year-round is 71°F. During the summer, the waters of the northern Red Sea can measure almost 79°F, while the southern waters can register 86°F.
These warm waters allow the Red Sea to host a stunning array of marine life. The sea is famous for its 175 species of nudibranchs. Many of them cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Over 250 species of coral and 1,100 species of fish call these waters home. These fish species include 44 species of sharks.
The Red Sea is not only one of the warmest seawaters in the world, but also one of the saltiest. The salinity of typical seawater is 3-3.5%. The salinity of the Red Sea is 36-38%. The extremely high salinity results from high evaporation with little precipitation or fresh water inflow. The high salinity is perfect for corals, which is why some of the most amazing coral reefs in the world are found here.
Shipwrecks in the depths of the Red Sea
Besides all the living organisms in the sea, there are also numerous shipwrecks on the bottom of the Red Sea. The most famous of these is the SS Thislegorm, sunk by German bombers during World War II. But unless Moses comes along, these shipwrecks are destined to remain in the depths of the Red Sea. And speaking of Moses…
How deep was the water during the Israelite Exodus?
The Red Sea is known to Jews and Christians as the place where the waters parted before Moses could lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. The traditional site of this crossing in Judeo-Christian history is the Gulf of Suez. It is also the location depicted in the 1956 epic film, The Ten Commandments.
The Gulf of Suez is the northwest arm of the Red Sea, with Africa proper to the west and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula to the east. While we do not know how deep the water may have been in the days of the Israelite Exodus, the Gulf of Suez today is about 230 feet at its deepest point. It has an average depth of about 130 feet.
The Gulf of Suez is an important shipping route from Egypt to the Red Sea, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean. The Gulf of Suez is also the passage for ships using the Suez Canal, which connects the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea.
The importance of this canal was demonstrated in 2021 when a mega-cargo named Ever Given got stuck and blocked passage through the canal for six days. Supply chains around the world collapsed. Trade losses totaled around $10 billion each day, all because a boat got stuck in a canal. It reminded the world how important this region, the Suez Canal and the Red Sea really is to all of us.
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