Geography > Mediterranean Sea

Mediterranean Sea

Background

The Mediterranean is all that remains of a great ocean which at an early geological epoch, before the formation of the Atlanticyencircled half the globe along a line of latitude. This ocean, already diminished in area, retreated after Oligocene times from the Iranian plateau, Turkestan, Asia Minor and the region of the north-west Alps. Next the plains of eastern Europe were lost, then the Aralo-Caspian region, southern Russia and finally the valley of the Danube.

The “ Mediterranean region, ” as a geographical unit, includes all this area; the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmora are within its submerged portion, and the climate of the whole is controlled by the oceanic influences of the Mediterranean Sea. Professor Suess, to whom the above description is due, finds that the Mediterranean forms no exception to the rule in affording no evidence of elevation or depression within historic times; but it is noteworthy that its present basin is remarkable in Europe for. its volcanic and seismic activity. Submarine earthquakes are in some parts sufficiently frequent and violent as seriously to interfere with the working of telegraph cables. Suess divides the Mediterranean basin into four physical regions, which afford probably the best means of description:

(1) The western Mediterranean, from Gibraltar to Malta and Sicily, enclosed by the Apennines, the mountains of northern Africa and of southern and south-eastern Spain (Cordillére bétique).

(2) The Adriatic, occupying the space between the Apennines and the Dinaric group (Suess compares the Adriatic to the valley of the Brahmaputra).

(3) A part surrounded by the fragments of the Dinaro-Taurus arch, especially by Crete and Cyprus. This includes the Aegean and the Black Sea, and its margin skirts the south coast of Asia Minor. These three parts belong strictly to Eurasia.

(4) Part of the coastal region of Indo-Africa, terraced downwards in successive horizontal planes from the Shot, reaching the sea in the Little Syrte, and continuing to the southern depressions of Syria. Malta and Gozo are the only islands of the Mediterranean which can be associated with this section, and, per contra, the mountain chain of north-west Africa belongs to Eurasia.

Murray (1888) estimates the total area of the Mediterranean at 813,000 sq. m. Karstens (1894) breaks it up into parts as follows:—

BasinArea
Western Mediterranean841,593 sq. km.
Sicilian-Ionian basin767,658
Greece and Levant basin769,652
Adriatic Sea130,656
⁠Total2,509,559
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