What is the Mediterranean Sea?

A. B. Kelsey

The Mediterranean Sea is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean that is almost completely surrounded by land. This inland sea is bordered by Asia on the eastern side, Europe on the north side, and Africa on the south. Although it is mostly landlocked, it does connect to the Atlantic Ocean through the Strait of Gibraltar and to the Black Sea through the Bosporus, the Dardanelles, and the Sea of Marmara. Moreover, the Suez Canal connects the Mediterranean with the Red Sea. In oceanography, this sea is sometimes called the “European Mediterranean Sea” or the “Eurafrican Mediterranean” to differentiate it from the other mediterranean seas found in different parts of the world.

Tangerines grow in the Mediterranean area due to the abundant sunshine.
Tangerines grow in the Mediterranean area due to the abundant sunshine.

The Mediterranean Sea is about 2,400 miles (3862 kilometers) long and its average depth is around 5,040 feet (1.53 km). Covering an area of approximately 965,000 square miles (2,500,000 square km), it is ringed by a long, winding coastline full of mountains and peninsulas. The regions around the sea typically have wet winters and warm, dry summers. Because of the abundant sunshine the area receives for much of the year, common crops include olives, oranges, tangerines, grapes, and cork. About 400 species of fish currently live in the Mediterranean, and corals and sponges are still quite plentiful.

Land surrounds almost all of the Mediterranean Sea.
Land surrounds almost all of the Mediterranean Sea.

Often called “the cradle of civilization,” the Mediterranean Sea was an important trading route for the merchants and travelers of ancient times. It was first used as a commercial highway by Phoenician merchants, but the Romans, Greeks, and Italians later competed for dominance of the Mediterranean’s shores and, therefore, the bulk of the trade. The importance of this trading route increased after the opening of the man-made Suez Canal in 1869.

In recent years, mankind has greatly altered the geology of the Mediterranean’s region. Dams, structures, buildings, and canals have been built up and down the once-pristine coastlines, leading to increased and rerouted erosional patterns. The resorts along the coastline are creating extremely polluted beaches. There are many boats traveling the Mediterranean, which has lead to a high rate of water pollution that is altering the Mediterranean Sea’s natural chemicals and destroying the marine life.

Surrounding countries are attempting to conserve and protect the entire Mediterranean region. These countries have been working together to try and eliminate toxic waste disposal into the Sea. Despite these efforts, the overuse and pollution of the marine and natural resources continues to be a problem.

The Mediterranean Sea has been vital to trade for the nations of Western European such as Italy.
The Mediterranean Sea has been vital to trade for the nations of Western European such as Italy.

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Discussion Comments


Is the Mediterranean sea still used as a major trading route today?


@ Submariner- You will find a large assortment of sharks in the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean is home to everything from Makos and Oceanic White Tips to Bull, Tiger, and Great White sharks. Some of these sharks can be very dangerous to people and will attack unprovoked. It is thought that the oceanic white tip shark is the main culprit for missing sailors and pilots who wreck in the deep ocean. The sharks will school, and often follow groups of whales, dolphins, and large fish. If there is a dead whale floating in the ocean you are almost likely to find numerous oceanic white tips feeding.

You can find sharks that favor the shallow waters and the shore just as easily as you can find the deep ocean sharks that only come to the shallows to breed. The Mediterranean may have few outlets, but one is all a shark needs to enter the sea.


What kinds of sharks are in the Mediterranean Sea? Are there large deep-ocean roaming sharks in the Mediterranean Sea like Great Whites, Mako, and hammerheads, or are the species limited to sharks that prefer shallow water?


There are a number of other seas that are part of the larger Mediterranean Sea. Such as Adriatic Sea with Italy on one side, and Croatia, Montenegro and Greece on the other side.

Ionic and Aegean Seas surrounding Greece and Turkey. Tyrrhenian Sea, Ligurian Sea, Balearic Sea, and Alboran Sea, part of Italy, France and Spain to the north, and northern Africa to the south.

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