Why Mediterranean Sea is named so?

The “Mediterranean” word comes from the Latin words “medius,” meaning middle, and “terra,” meaning earth. When these two Latin words are combined, the name that comes out means in the midst of the land or surrounded by land. The description of its name can actually describe the appearance and the location of the Mediterranean Sea since it is heavily surrounded by several countries, and the only breaks or other bodies of water in its coastline where some its water escapes are the 14.3 kilometer-wide Strait of Gibraltar and the much narrower Dardanelles.

The Mediterranean Sea is considered to be the largest land-locked sheet of water in the world. It has an area of nearly 2,500,000 square kilometers. As more water is evaporated from the body of water, the rivers would usually bring more water into it, hence the reason why there’s always an inward current coming through the Straits of Gibraltar. Because of the phenomenon, even if the Mediterranean Sea is technically a lake-like in structure, the water that it gets is saltier than the one found in the Atlantic Ocean, mainly because the water it gets is from both the Black Sea to the northeast and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Its deepest portions are found in the eastern half, where depths of up to about 5,200 meters are calculated. The Mediterranean Sea does not have tides at its center, but the tidal range it produces from outside sources like the Strait of Gibraltar and many other parts is only a few centimeters.

How was the Mediterranean Sea formed?

The Mediterranean Sea was not formed through the moving of continental plates on Earth, which is what formed most of the other seas and oceans that we know today. In fact, the Mediterranean Sea was formed by a great flood the occurred about 5 million years ago.

The flood was called the Zanclean Flood or the Zanclean Deluge, and it happened water from the Atlantic Ocean started seeping through the center of Europe and Africa. The Atlantic Ocean’s water was able to go through the landmass to the east by creating a natural passageway, and the passageway eventually transformed into a strait that is currently known as the Strait of Gibraltar. The flood lasted approximately two years, and the area that will become the Mediterranean Sea was filled with 10 meters of water a day. The fast fill-up of water at the center of Europe and Africa was caused by the Atlantic Ocean being able to move its waters through the Strait of Gibraltar at an amazing speed of 100 kilometers per hour.

As water from the Atlantic Ocean continues to flow through the strait at fast speeds, it was able to erode the ridges at the sides to form a larger strait that is the Strait of Gibraltar. The erosion also caused the formation of mountain ranges near the Strait of Gibraltar and in the countries of Spain and Morocco. Because of how fast the water flows into the landmass of the Mediterranean Sea, many geologists consider it to be one of the biggest floods not only in Europe but also in the entire world.

Today, the Atlantic Ocean continues to transport water to the Mediterranean Sea via the Strait of Gibraltar, although at a much slower pace compared to before. Even though the evidence about the Zanclean Flood is clear, many scientists believe that the Mediterranean Sea was already formed even before the Strait of Gibraltar was created. According to several studies, the Mediterranean Sea was already connected to the Atlantic Ocean before, but years of drought caused the sea to become smaller and smaller. It was only during the Zanclean age, which was 5 million years ago, that the Mediterranean Sea was finally able to reconnect to the Atlantic Ocean. However, before that happened, the southern parts of Europe experienced a devastating drought called the Messinian Salinity Crisis. During that period, the Mediterranean Sea was so dry that more than half of its body is dried up. The high rate of evaporation in the sea can also be one of the causes for why it dried so quickly. The Zanclean flood brought the Messinian Salinity Crisis to an end, and it also helped to refill the lost water in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Mediterranean Sea currently serves as a way for its surrounding countries to make trades with others, as many would prefer traveling by water since it is faster compared to traveling by land. The sea is also responsible for the cultural hegemony of the surrounding countries, mainly because going from one country to another is easier thanks to the body of water in the middle of these lands. In addition, it is also a popular tourist destination for foreigners because of the crystal clear beaches found on its edges.