The Art And Magic Of The Open Water

The Art And Magic Of The Open Water

What NASA sees from above, open water swimmers experience first-hand every day.

These animations based on data from NASA satellites on the left show ocean surface currents between 2005 and 2007. The movement of water as seen from above is fascinating to behold. The macro level is magnificent.

And ocean swimmers feel this movement of the water on a micro, truly human level. Just as the massive Gulf Stream moves from the Caribbean Sea out towards the Atlantic Ocean, the lone swimmer traversing along a coastline towards a rock jetty can feel the power and effects of an oncoming current with every stroke.

But while the currents look like the broad brush strokes used in Vincent Van Gogh‘s famous painting Starry Night, those broad strokes of water movement are much more detailed as Georges Seurat‘s example of pointillism in his painting Sunday afternoon on the island of La Grande-Jatte. That is, from afar, the currents look orderly and dynamic, but from within, the currents are chaotic and unpredictable.

When Jose Cortinas, Leo Vigil, Rolando Elejalde, Luciana Nunez, Diana Nyad, Skip Storch and Penny Palfrey tackled swimming across the Gulf Stream, they had to face huge eddies. These eddies occur at the edges of the Gulf Stream and create havoc in many cases. While the current may be moving in one direction, the eddies are swirls that twirl around and around in incomprehensible and ever-dynamic directions, making a joke of the straight-line tangent navigational intentions of swimmers and navigators.

Sometimes, these eddies are gigantic from a human perspective.

As is the entire movement of water on the blue Planet Earth.

For more animations made possible by the NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and the NASA Ames Research Center, view here and here.

Copyright © 2013 by Open Water Source