It’s an amazing place really – the Gulf of Mexico. Covering over 598,000 square miles this almost a complete circle of water and home to some interesting geological features, amazing marine organisms, some of busiest ports in the United States, offshore mineral extraction, great vacation locations, and amazing local culture.
As you stand along Pensacola Beach and look south, you see a wide expanse of water that seems to go on forever. However, in oceanographic terms, the Gulf is not that large of a body of water. Though it is close to 600,000 square miles in size, the Atlantic Ocean is 41,000,000 and the Pacific is 64,000,000 square miles. In addition to area, the mean depth of the Atlantic is a little over 12,000 feet and the Pacific is 14,000 feet. In comparison, the deepest point of the Gulf is 14,000 feet and the mean depth is only 5,000. The shape of the bottom is like a ceramic bowl that was not centered well when fired. The deepest point, the Sigsbee Deep, is about 550 miles southwest (about “2:00” if you are looking from the beach). The shape appears like a hole made by a golf ball that landed in a sand trap. As a matter of fact, there are scientists who believe this is exactly what happened – a large asteroid or comet made have hit the Earth near the Gulf forming a large series of tsunamis and created the Gulf as we know it today.
Either way the “pond” (as some oceanographers refer to it) is an amazing place. The bottom is littered with hot vents, brine lakes, and deep-sea canyons. Large areas of the continental shelf support coral reef formation and a great variety of marine life. Some of the busiest ports in the United States are located along its shores, and it supplies 14% of the wild domestic harvested seafood. Everyone is aware of the mineral resources supplied on the western shelf of the Gulf and the tremendous tourism all states and nations that bordering enjoy.
This year the Gulf of Mexico Alliance will be celebrating “Embracing the Gulf” with a variety of activities and programs across the northern Gulf region. We will be dedicating this column to articles about the Gulf of Mexico all year and discussing some of the topics mentioned above in more detail. We hope you enjoy your time here and get a chance to explore the Gulf’s seafood, fishing, diving, marine life, ship cruises, unique cultures, and awesome sunsets. Embrace the Gulf!