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Old 02-23-2012
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Caribbean water

Can anyone here explain why the water in the Caribbean has that incredible crystalline transparency? Everywhere else I have been on the ocean it has been murky to one degree or another - nowhere else was it like the water in a swimming pool.

I'm curious about the natural processes that make the water there so unique.
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Old 02-23-2012
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Uh, it is clean.....

lots of marine life, lots of flushing water moving through and few people to totally ruin it, very few industries and sewage treatment plants to dump their stuff...

Would be nice to see more....though. 20-30' and virtually clear is an awesome sight...it does mess with your senses, as it "looks" more shallow than it is in some light, and much deeper than real in other light. Snorkeling/Scuba is a new experience in such wonderful water.
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Old 02-23-2012
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Has to do with nutrients cycling from the ocean bottom to the surface. Tropical waters are warm, and warm water floats on top of the cooler bottom water, inhibiting upflow. Consequently, there is less life, nutrients, silts, etc, being circulated, which stunts the overall ability of tropical waters to sustain life. This results in water with less in it and it is therefore more transparent.

This is also why artic waters are so dense with life. With a small temperature gradient between surface and bottom, nutrients from the bottom are constantly be lifted to the surface.
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Old 02-23-2012
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Also there isn't a "real" amount of soil to be washed into the water from rains and rivers.
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Old 02-23-2012
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The primary reason is a lack of suspended nutrients. Not many folks pooping in the water down there. About 50 years ago I was able to scuba dive in Chesapeake Bay over the eastern shore oyster bars just south of Chesapeake Bay Bridge at Sandy Point. In early October the underwater visibility was about 12 to 20 feet and improved as winter progressed. There's a good reason that oysters tend to be fatter in Chesapeake Bay and behind Virginia's barrier islands--they have a lot of nutrients to feed upon. Oysters in the Florida Keys are really thin.

About the same time I had the privilege to dive off Guantanamo Bay at Officers Beach, which is located just outside the Naval Station anchorage. Underwater visibility there on a bad day was nearly 100 feet. The only place I found better was at Cosgrove Light off Marquesses Key, Florida. The only problem there was bull sharks, some of which measured more than 10 feet long and very aggressive. There were massive schools of huge barracuda there as well, but they tended to be more inquisitive than aggressive.

All the best,

Gary
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Old 02-23-2012
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Interestingly, the island of Saba is known for it's dive industry.. when we were there the water was EXCEPTIONALLY clear, noticeably better than the 'crystal' waters of the other islands. The distance we could see underwater was unreal.

This is an island with no sand whatsoever.. so no turbidity in the local waters.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnnyquest37 View Post
Has to do with nutrients cycling from the ocean bottom to the surface. Tropical waters are warm, and warm water floats on top of the cooler bottom water, inhibiting upflow. Consequently, there is less life, nutrients, silts, etc, being circulated, which stunts the overall ability of tropical waters to sustain life. This results in water with less in it and it is therefore more transparent.

This is also why artic waters are so dense with life. With a small temperature gradient between surface and bottom, nutrients from the bottom are constantly be lifted to the surface.
I think you've nailed it - it has to be something a LOT more fundamental than cleanliness to achieve that kind of clarity. The water in many places here is every bit as clean or more so than in the BVI but it never achieves that crystalline "swimming pool" quality.
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Old 02-23-2012
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when my parents moved to miami, inthe 50's they said the water was that clear.

some areas towards the keys are still pretty clear... not so much in miami.
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Old 02-23-2012
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About 20 years ago, a crewmate of mine showed me some pictures he took in Portugal (where he lived). The boats in his pictures looked like they were floating in the air, and you could follow the rode all the way to the bottom. These weren't professional shots mind you, just snapshots from a day trip to the beach with his family.
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Old 02-23-2012
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You will notice a major difference in places where there are rivers on the island bringinig in sediment. With rivers the water is dirty (not biologically so) with silt. Could see this on the north shore of Guadeloupe were a pretty big river came in - the water was not all that clear.

The clearest water is near islands with no rivers and no people. BTW, the water in Lake Ontario has become remarkably clear in the last 20 years or so as a result of zebra mussels being introduced from the ocean. They are remarkably efficient filter feeders and have removed immense amount of particulate matter. Really screwed up the native ecosystems but the water is much, much clearer - the 1000 Islands have become a significant dive site as a result.
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