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Why is the Ocean Salty?

by Derek Kaden

Why is the Ocean Salty?

The Ocean is salty because of dissolved land materials that are deposited into the Ocean through streams and rivers. Stream and river water does not taste salty because it is moving, compared to the Ocean, which is essentially a giant bath tub. The concept is the same for most lake water. The Great Lakes are not salty because the water contained within them is on the move. According to an article by Science Daily, a drop of water in the Great Lakes will stay there for approximately 200 years before it makes its way out to sea, whereas a droplet of water in the Ocean can take up to 200 million years before it goes anywhere!

Farming for sea salt in Thailand.

Farming for sea salt in Thailand.

Why are Some Lakes Salty?

The most well-known salty inland lakes are the Great Salt Lake in Utah and the Dead Sea in Western Asia. These bodies of water are so salty because they receive a lot of dissolved river deposits and offer no further outlet for those deposits to go. In addition, evaporation is greater than rainfall in these areas. The more evaporation in an area, the higher the salinity (saltiness of water) will be. Rainfall causes salinity levels to sink. The Great Salt Lake has an approximate salinity of 280 parts per thousand, which is 8 times saltier than the average salinity of the Ocean. The Dead Sea’s salinity is 330 parts per thousand, or almost 10 times saltier than the Ocean. The saltiest known inland body of water is the Don Juan Pond in Antarctica, a very small and shallow patch of water that has a salinity of 440 parts per thousand, which is 12 and a half times saltier than the Ocean!

The dense salty water of the Dead Sea makes it very easy to float - without a floaty!

The dense salty water of the Dead Sea makes it very easy to float – without a floaty!

What are the Key Differences Between Fresh Water and Salt Water?

Some of the most marked differences between fresh water and salt water are in their freezing points and boiling points. Pure water freezes at a very familiar temperature: 32 degrees Fahrenheit (o Celsius). Average Ocean water that has salinity of 35 parts per thousand freezes at a lower temperature: 28.6 degrees Fahrenheit (-1.9 Celsius). In fact, the more saline a body of water is, the lower the temperature must be for that water to freeze. Since the Don Juan Pond is so salty, it still doesn’t freeze even when temperatures reach -22 degrees Fahrenheit (-30 Celsius)!

The boiling point of average Ocean water is only slightly higher than the boiling point of fresh water. Fresh water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 Celsius), whereas Ocean water boils at 213.1 Fahrenheit (100.6 Celsius). This means that adding salt to your soup or pasta water will actually make the food cook slightly quicker, and it will of course make it taste better! It’s important to add the salt after the water starts boiling, otherwise it will take longer to reach a boil.

One of My Favorite Geographers

by Derek Kaden

Lidia Matticchio Bastianich is her name. You might know her from one of her public television cooking shows, like Lidia’s Italy.

Lidia_Bastianich

She is a chef, writer, restaurateur, entrepreneur, mother, grandmother, and as I would add, a geographer too. In almost every one of her episodes, she takes us to a different region in Italy and cooks meals with ingredients that are particular to those regions. In Sicily, dishes are cooked with a bit more spice than other areas because of an abundance of Peperoncino (dried red pepper flakes), and couscous is also a staple there; the volcanic soil around Naples creates excellent conditions for large vegetables to grow; Puglia – the “heel” of Italy – grows a lot of durum wheat, which supports pasta and bread production in surrounding regions; and places along the Adriatic coast, including the one where Lidia is from, use a variety of sea food – scampi, shrimp, bluefish, sardines, clams, and mussels – in their cooking.

Lidia was born in February 1947 in Pola, Italy, a city on the Adriatic in a region called Istria. This region changed many governmental hands in the last hundred years. After World War I, it was given to Italy by the defeated Austrian Empire. In the summer of 1947 it became part of Yugoslavia, and since that country’s dissolution in the 1990s Croatia administers the area today. Lidia’s hometown now goes by Pula (you can translate that word into Romanian if you dare), and she takes us there in a few of her episodes.

Istria_Today

Current administrative boundaries on the Istrian Peninsula

To me, one of the best moments in her show had nothing to do with cooking, but it made me think about geography and how places are important in all of our lives. In the episode Briny as the Sea, which can be streamed for free on Hulu, Lidia shares recipes she remembers from her childhood. Then, the camera cuts from her New York City kitchen to the Istrian Beach – the same one she played on as a kid – and she says, “this water, these rocks, regenerate me every single time. And when the stresses of today’s life get me, I just pack up and I come to my water, I come to my rocks”. It was a beautiful moment.

I have learned a lot from watching her show – about Italy’s regions, political history, when foods are in-season, and of course good recipes and cooking techniques. I completely recommend for you to watch it, either for free on Hulu or on the public television network Create.