A place in the Gulf of Alaska where two oceans meet but do not mix.
What Causes it.
This happened because fresh water glaciers melted and flowed to join the ocean water. Because of the difference in the salinity and densities of these two water bodies, a surface tension developed between them that acts like a thin wall which prevents them from mixing. The boundary between the two is outlined by a thin layer of foam.
It’s kind of poetic isn’t it? Two powerful bodies of water, relentlessly standing together, but unable to become one. They’re like the Romeo and Juliet of aquatic bodies. But fear not, hopelessly romantic weirdos, according to scientists this story will get its happy ending; given enough time, the differences between these two bodies will disappear and they will merge together.
That original photo, however, originates from a 2007 research cruise of oceanographers studying the role that iron plays in the Gulf of Alaska, and how that iron reaches certain areas in the northern Pacific.
Ken Bruland, professor of ocean sciences at University of California-Santa Cruz, was on that cruise. In fact, he was the one who snapped the pic. He said the purpose of the cruise was to examine how huge eddies — slow moving currents — ranging into the hundreds of kilometers in diameter, swirl out from the Alaska coast into the Gulf of Alaska.
Those eddies often carry with them huge quantities of glacial sediment thanks to rivers like Alaska’s 286-mile-long Copper River, prized for its salmon and originating from the Copper Glacier far inland. It empties out east of Prince William Sound, carrying with it all that heavy clay and sediment. And with that sediment comes iron.
“Glacier rivers in the summertime are like buzzsaws eroding away the mountains there,” Bruland said. “In the process, they lift up all this material — they call it glacial flour — that can be carried out.”