Archive for the ‘Places’ Category

What are the Totten Beacons?



In 1513, Spanish explorer Ponce de León sailed into the strong currents of the Florida Straits. Little did he know that within a few years, these uncharted waters, which fed into the Gulf Stream, would become a major international shipping route to and from Europe and the New World.

As Europeans explored and colonized the Americas, they took advantage of the Florida Straits' winds and currents. The winds changed direction often, however, easily pounding countless vessels against miles of treacherous submerged coral reefs off the southern Florida coast.

By 1852, Lieutenant James B. Totten, the U.S. Army's assistant to the Coast Survey, had installed 15 wooden signal poles in the reefs to create more accurate charts of the Florida Keys. Local mariners quickly recognized that the poles themselves helped them safely navigate the reefs, and by 1855, Totten and his team installed a second generation of 16 poles using a more permanent material—iron. The "beacons" each displayed a letter, starting with "A" and ending with "P." Today, remnants of Totten Beacons are protected as historical resources by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS).

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How does sea ice affect global climate?

This item was filled under Facts, Ocean Observations, Ocean Science, Places


Sea ice is frozen water that forms, expands, and melts in the ocean. It is different from icebergs, glaciers, ice sheets, and ice shelves, which originate on land. For the most part, sea ice expands during winter months and melts during summer months, but in certain regions, some sea ice remains year-round. About 15 percent of the world's oceans are covered by sea ice during part of the year.

While sea ice exists primarily in the polar regions, it influences the global climate. The bright surface of sea ice reflects a lot of sunlight out into the atmosphere and, importantly, back into space. Because this solar energy "bounces back" and is not absorbed into the ocean, temperatures nearer the poles remain cool relative to the equator.

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What are beach advisories and beach closures?

This item was filled under Basics, Economy, Ecosystems, Facts, Health, Places


A beach advisory leaves it up to users as to whether they wish to risk going into the water. In the case of a beach closure, the state and/or local government decides that water conditions are unsafe for swimmers and other users.

How can beach-goers avoid the disappointment of arriving at their summer vacation destination only to find that authorities advise them not to swim there or that the beaches are closed altogether?

Unfortunately, there is no central database that provides information on beach closures and advisories in real time. The best way to find information on the current water quality of a particular beach is to plan ahead.

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What is the highest point on Earth as measured from Earth’s center?



Mount Everest, located in Nepal and Tibet, is usually said to be the highest mountain on Earth. Reaching 29,029 feet at its summit, Everest is indeed the highest point above global mean sea level—the average level for the ocean surface from which elevations are measured. But the summit of Mt. Everest is not the farthest point from Earth’s center.

Earth is not a perfect sphere, but is a bit thicker at the Equator due to the centrifugal force created by the planet’s constant rotation. Because of this, the highest point above Earth’s center is the peak of Ecuador’s Mount Chimborazo, located just one degree south of the Equator where Earth’s bulge is greatest. The summit of Chimborazo is 20,564 feet above sea level. However, due to the Earth’s bulge, the summit of Chimborazo is over 6,560 feet farther from the center of the Earth than Everest’s peak. That makes Chimborazo the closest point on Earth to the stars.

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What is a living shoreline?

This item was filled under Ecosystems, Facts, Ocean Science, Places


Living shorelines are a green infrastructure technique using native vegetation alone or in combination with offshore sills to stabilize the shoreline. Living shorelines provide a natural alternative to ‘hard’ shoreline stabilization methods like stone sills or bulkheads, and provide numerous benefits including nutrient pollution remediation, essential fish habitat provision, and buffering of shoreline from waves and storms. Living shorelines are known to store carbon (known as carbon sequestration), which keeps carbon out of the atmosphere. Continued use of this approach to coastal resilience will result in increased carbon sequestration and storage, potentially mitigating the effects of climate change.

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What is a pocosin?

This item was filled under Ecosystems, Facts, Places


Pocosins are generally found along the Atlantic coastal plain of the United States, from southern Virginia to northern Florida. These areas typically occur in broad, low-lying shallow basins that do not drain naturally. Pocosins are formed by the accumulation of organic matter, resembling black muck, which builds up over thousands of years. This accumulation of material causes the soil to be highly acidic and nutrient-deficient.

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What is the Great Loop?

This item was filled under Economy, Facts, Maritime Transportation, Places


The Great Loop is a continuous waterway that recreational mariners can travel that includes part of the Atlantic, Gulf Intracoastal Waterways, the Great Lakes, Canadian Heritage Canals, and the inland rivers of America's heartland. Anyone who completes the journey is then named an official 'Looper.'

For a safe and enjoyable trip, there are a few things to consider when traveling the Great Loop—a great amount of time, a boat with less than a five foot draft to travel inland waterways, NOAA nautical charts, and a NOAA radio. Along the way, it is possible to visit a number of national marine sanctuaries and estuarine research reserves.

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What is a wetland?

This item was filled under Basics, Ecosystems, Facts, Places

A wetland is an area of land that is saturated with water.

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What is an anchialine pool?

This item was filled under Ecosystems, Facts, Ocean Observations, Places
An anchialine pool is an enclosed water body or pond with an underground connection to the ocean.

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Where is Point Nemo?

This item was filled under Facts, Places, Positioning and Geology
Want to get away from it all?

You can't do better than a point in the Pacific Ocean popularly known as 'Point Nemo,' named after the famous submarine sailor from Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

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