Black Sea

Russian and Bulgarian Chernoye More,  Ukrainian Chorne More,  Turkish Karadeniz,  Romanian Marea Neagra,   large inland sea situated at the southeastern extremity of Europe. It is bordered by Ukraine to the north, Russia to the northeast, Georgia to the east, Turkey to the south, and Bulgaria and Romania to the west.

The roughly oval-shaped Black Sea occupies a large basin strategically situated at the southeastern extremity of Europe but connected to the distant waters of the Atlantic Ocean by the Bosporus (which emerges from the sea's southwestern corner), the Sea of Marmara, the Dardanelles, the Aegean Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea. The renowned Crimean Peninsula thrusts into the Black Sea from the north, and just to its east the narrow Kerch Strait links the sea to the smaller Sea of Azov. The Black Sea coastline is otherwise fairly regular. The maximum east-west extent of the sea is about 730 miles (1,175 kilometres), while the shortest distance between the tip of the Crimea and the Kerempe Burmi Cape to the south is about 160 miles. The surface area, excluding the Sea of Marmara but including the Sea of Azov, is about 178,000 square miles (461,000 square kilometres); the Black Sea proper occupies about 163,000 square miles (422,000 square kilometres). A maximum depth of more than 7,250 feet (2,210 metres) is reached in the south-central sector of the sea.

In ancient Greek myths, the sea—then on the fringe of the Mediterranean world—was named Pontus Axeinus, meaning “Inhospitable Sea.” Later explorations made the region more familiar, and, as colonies were established along the shores of a sea the Greeks came to know as more hospitable and friendly, its name was changed to Pontus Euxinus, the opposite of the earlier designation. It was across its waters that Jason and the Argonauts set out, according to legend, to find the Golden Fleece in the land of Colchis, a kingdom at the sea's eastern tip (now Georgia). The Turks, when they came to control the lands beyond the sea's southern shores, encountered only the sudden storms whipped up on its waters and reverted to a designation reflecting the inhospitable aspect of what they now termed the Karadeniz, or Black Sea.

Navigation on the Black Sea has been known from the time of the ancient Phoenicians. The Greek historian Herodotus described the northern coasts of the sea in the 5th century BC, while the first navigational guides, called peripli (singular: periplus), were written by Greeks in the 4th century BC. The shores of the Black Sea were settled by a number of peoples, including Slavs, Turks, and Genoese; by the 15th century the Turks were in control of the entire shoreline.

Russian sailors began hydrographic explorations of the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea in the 18th century, and these investigations were mostly complete by the end of the 19th century. Regular meteorological observations were initiated in the first quarter of the 19th century, and a biological station at Sevastopol (on the Crimean Peninsula) was founded in 1871. In 1881–82 the Russian naval commander and oceanographer Stepan Osipovich Makarov investigated in detail the two-layer exchange of water through the Bosporus. The first multidisciplinary expedition (1890–91) conducted pioneering hydrologic observations in the deep layers of the sea, in the process discovering the presence of hydrogen sulfide in these layers. The oceanographic investigations of the Black Sea were largely completed during expeditions organized in the mid-1920s. Since World War II a variety of complex investigations of the sea have been carried out by the nations of the Black Sea basin as well as by other countries.

By: Vladimir Petrovich Goncharov, Luch Mikhaylovich Fomin, Aleksey Nilovich Kosarev

"Black Sea." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2004.  Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service.
23 July 2004  <>.

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