Thursday, May 2, 2013

The North Sea

The Norse (North) Sea is just outside the Arctic Circle, one of the first large bays when looking down on the planet from the north, mothered by the North Atlantic. The North Sea is large and deep,  600 mi long and 360 mi wide a total of 290,000 sq mi.  Average depth is 312 ft and the deepest point of 2,379 ft, she's not that warm either with a max temp of 63 F (17 C) and a min of 43 F (6 C) this body of water is some of the toughest seas on the planet.

 Not only in nature but combined with human history this is the Norse Sea.  The related Old Norse masculine noun víkingr appears in Viking Age skaldic poetry and on several rune stones found in Scandinavia, where it refers to a seaman or warrior who takes part in an expedition overseas.  There are several theories on the etymology of the word Viking. According to recent research, the word dates from before the sail was taken into use by the Germanic peoples of North-Western Europe. North Germanic language, Old Norse, became the mother-tongue of present-day Scandinavian languages.  By 801, a strong central authority appears to have been established in Jutland, and the Danes were beginning to look beyond their own territory for land, trade and plunder.  The sea was the easiest way of communication between the Norwegian kingdoms and the outside world. It was in the 8th century that Scandinavians began to build ships of war and send them on raiding expeditions to initiate the Viking Age.

The Vikings employed wooden longships with wide, shallow-draft hulls, allowing navigation in rough seas or in shallow river waters. The ships could be landed on beaches, and their light weight enabled them to be carried over portages. These versatile ships allowed the Vikings to travel as far east as Constantinople and the Volga River in Russia, as far west as Iceland, Greenland, and Newfoundland, and as far south as Nekor.  Toughest Seamen at the time and today the North Sea borders, Orkney Islands and east coasts of England and Scotland to the west and the northern and central European mainland to the east and south, including Norway, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and France.

The North Sea was the center of the Vikings' rise and subsequently, the Hanseatic League, the Netherlands, and the British each sought to dominate the North Sea and through it to control access to the markets and resources of the world.  The drekar, or dragon-headed longships, were stealthy troop-carriers.  They could cross the open oceans under sail and then switch to oars for lightning-fast hit-and-run attacks on undefended towns and monasteries, long-ships carried Viking raiders from northern England to north Africa.   As Germany's only outlet to the ocean, the North Sea continued to be strategically important through both World Wars.

That's a boat load of history on this Sea not only were the expeditions tough but where you think you are abandoned crossing the rough sea of the Norse Sea, can you imagine being out there in a Viking longship?

Seafront at Seaham 

The North Sea is fierce as the Vikings' and with storm surge accompanied by high tide the little lighthouse in Seaham Harbor which stands at 30ft is dwarfed by the waves crashing into the harbor wall.  Built in 1905, I wonder if you can spend the night?  A combination of strong winds, extremely low pressure and a storm surge can raise the sea level around eastern England by an additional 2 meters.  This lighthouse has stood the test of time and looking out of the harbor the Vikings had sailed by, this is the North Sea.


If she could talk, 

Much time has gone by since the Vikings in 793 AD, the stories that are at the bottom and rise atop the North Sea makes this one of the most historical and commercial seas on the map. The North Sea is Europe's main fishery accounting for over 5% of international commercial fish caught, a favorite is Dogger Bank just east of Sunderland UK and not so popular is Devils Hole were many a trawler has lost their nets on the steep shelf east of Dundee, Scotland.

Other major features are Norwegian trench, which extends parallel to the Norwegian shoreline from Oslo to an area north of Bergen. It is between 20 and 30 kilometers (12 and 19 mi) wide and has a maximum depth of 725 meters (2,379 ft). The Long Forties, on a nautical chart with depth shown in fathoms, a long area with many "40" notations can be seen.

As early as 1859, oil was discovered in onshore areas around the North Sea and natural gas as early as 1910. The price of Brent Crude, one of the first types of oil extracted from the North Sea, is used today as a standard price for comparison for crude oil from the rest of the world. The North Sea contains western Europe's largest oil and natural gas reserves and is one of the world's key non-OPEC producing regions. So the next time you go fishing or transport some goods via ship across the North Sea, you're in much company that made a wake before you, good fishing and calm seas, for the ones on the North Sea.

Petre Miuta 

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