One of the four seas that are named after the colors that we know, White Sea is quite interesting. There are a couple of hypotheses that try to explain why such a name was given. In this White Sea facts list, we are going to learn about its geography such as climate, extent, topography and more. We will also learn about the theories that explain to attempt the name.
White Sea Facts: 1-5
1. White Sea is an inlet of the Barents Sea (located on the south of Barents Sea). Barents Sea is present at the northwest coast of Russia.
2. White Sea is also more or less landlocked with Kola Peninsula to the north side, Karelia to the west side and Kanin Peninsula to the northeast side. Russia controls the White Sea and is considered as a part of Russia’s internal waters. It is actually divided among three federal subjects– Arkhangelsk, Republic of Karelia and Murmansk (Russia’s federal subjects).
3. Port of Arkhangelsk is present in the White Sea. This port is now Russia’s submarine and naval base but earlier it was important for international trade.
5. White Sea has a surface area of 34,700 square miles or 90,000 square kilometers. It has an average depth of 197 feet or 60 meters.
White Sea Facts: 6-10
6. White Sea is connected to the Barents Sea through a narrow strait called as Gorlo (meaning “throat” in Russian). It is connected to the Baltic Sea via White Sea-Baltic Canal.
7. White Sea has four main bays or gulfs. They are:
- Kandalaksha Gulf – Sea’s western part. It is also the deepest part of the sea with a depth of 1,115 feet or 340 meters.
- Onega Bay – It is present towards the south side of the sea. It connects Onega river to the White Sea.
- Dvina Bay – It is present towards the southeast side of the sea. White Sea is connected to the Northern Dvina River via Dvina Bay at Arkhangelsk port.
- Mezen Bay – It is present towards the east side of Gorlo and situated opposite to the Kola Peninsula. It connects the Mezen River and Kuloy River with the White Sea. Vyg, Varzuga, Ponoy, Umba, Niva etc. are the other rivers which ultimately drain into the White Sea.
8. The bed of the sea consists of different materials in different areas. Dvina Bay and the central part of the White Sea contains silt and sand. Kandalaksha Gulf, northern part of the sea and Onega Bay contains silt and stones. Coasts of the White Sea towards the northwestern side are rocky and tall whereas the southeastern counterparts have weaker slopes.
9. There are many small islands present in the White Sea. Solovetsky Islands (present at the opening of Onega Bay and middle of the White Sea) is a major island. Other islands include Kiy Island in Onega Bay (has a monastery) and Velikiy Island in Kandalashka Gulf.
10. White Sea is actually a depression filled with water in Baltic Shield, a part of a continental shelf. Its sea bed is highly uneven and at the northwestern part there is Kandalaksha Hollow and at the south side there are islands (Solovetsky Islands).
White Sea Facts: 11-15
11. Gorlo’s opening is just 50 meters deep and adding to this, there is an underwater ridge towards the northern side of the Gorlo, which further decreases the water exchange between White Sea and Barents Sea.
12. The water exchange is helped by the tides (raise nearly 1 meter in south and 10 meters near the Mezen Bay). The tides occur twice a day. The currents are pretty weak in the sea but strength of the currents increases in the bays and gulfs. During the tides, the water level of the White Sea increases only 2 meters.
13. 215 cubic kilometers of fresh water is brought by the rivers. Major contributor is the Northern Dvina River and the river which contributes the least is Vyg River. 40% of the freshwater is brought only in the month of May. The months of February and March see very less influx of freshwater. This causes a drop or increase in the sea level which further enhances the water exchange between White and Barents Sea. On an average 2000 cubic kilometers of water flows into the White Sea and 2200 cubic kilometers of water flows out of the White Sea every year.
14. This inflow of freshwater decreases the salinity of the surface water (5-10 meters) only. The salinity remains at 23 ppt (parts per thousand) at the eastern side, 26-27 at the western side of the sea and 10-12 ppt at the Dvina Bay (because Northern Dvina River is the major contributor of the freshwater).
15. The characteristic feature of the White Sea is the presence of silicates and silicon. The freshwater influx increases the content of silicates and silicon in the waters of the sea.
White Sea Facts: 16-20
16. Storms usually are strongest in the months of October and November. From July-August, the sea remains soft.
17. Because of the influence of winds from Atlantic Ocean and Arctic Ocean, the sea experience two types of climate – moderate continental and polar. Clouds and fogs are a common sight. South side of the sea is much colder than the north side (thanks to the warm air from the Atlantic).
18. Summers are also cold, cloudy, humid and accompanied with frequent rains. The usual temperature in summer is at 7-8 degrees Celsius at the north side and 15 degrees Celsius at the center. But sometimes, warm air from Europe increases the temperature to 17-19 degrees Celsius or sometimes even 30 degrees Celsius. The usual temperature of the sea during February is -15 degrees Celsius.
19. During winters (from October or November to May or June) the sea freezes. The temperature varies from one part to the other i.e., north side of the sea experiences -1.9 degrees Celsius temperature while the temperature at the center is around -1.3 to -1.9 degrees Celsius. This happens because of the variation in the salinity levels.
20. The freezing period is also different for each year. 90% of the ice floats and moves to the Barents Sea. The thickness of the ice is generally 40 centimeters but can be even 150 centimeters during peak winters.
White Sea Facts: 21-25
21. At different parts of the White sea, same temperatures are recorded for different depths. For example: At Dvina Bay’s exit the temperature is 0 degrees Celsius at mere 12-15 meters. This temperature is recorded at 65 meters at the Kandalaksha Gulf’s exit.
22. White Sea was used from the 11th century for navigation by the Novgorod people (Novgorod is a city in Russia). The year 1492 marked the first international travel via the White Sea. A merchant fleet sailed from Russia to Denmark via White Sea. The ambassadors of Ivan III were sailing in the fleet.
23. In 1553, Edward Bonaventure ship (commanded by Richard Chancellor) reached Kholmogory through White Sea. The exploration was funded by England’s Edward VI. Richard Chancellor met Tsar of Russia, Ivan IV. This led to the beginning of trade relations between England (under Queen Mary) and Russia (under Ivan IV).
24. Dutch followed the English. Soon, Kholmogory became a busy port. Ivan IV created a new port in the year 1584 and named it as New Kholmogory. From 1596, New Kholmogory was called as Arkhangelsk.
25. But, with the construction of St. Petersburgh in 1703, White Sea and Arkhangelsk port lost their glory. Murmansk port (founded in 1916) further declined the use of White Sea.
White Sea Facts: 26-30
26. There are 700+ invertebrate species, 60 fish species and 5 marine animal species in the White Sea. Some of the fish include Atlantic Cod, European Smelt, Herring Saffron Cod etc. Beluga, the white whale lives in White Sea.
27. Many whale species (Bowhead, Orcas, Northern Bottlenose etc.) and many dolphin species such as the Harbour Porpoises visit the White Sea but, very rarely.
28. Seaweed industry near the White Sea is increasing everyday with increase in the demand for seaweed.
29. There are two theories to explain why this sea is called White Sea. They are:
- One theory says that since the sea is covered with ice for nearly half a year, the sea is called White Sea (as color of ice appears to be white).
- Other theory says that as the water color is white due to the reflection of the northern sky, the sea is called White Sea.
White Sea Random Facts:
- Studenoye is one of the former names of White Sea.
- White Sea-Baltic Canal was completed in early 1930’s.
- Vikings used the name ‘Bay of Snakes’ to refer to the White Sea because of its curved coastlines.