The Mediterranean Sea is the body of water that separates Europe, Africa and Asia.
The sea is connected to the Atlantic Ocean by a narrow passage called the Strait of Gibraltar. It is between the southern tip of Spain and northern Morroco. The passage is only 14 km (8.7 mi) wide.
It is almost completely surrounded by land, on the north by Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Middle East.
To the northeast the Mediterranean Sea is connected with the Black Sea through the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara, which is often considered to be part of the Mediterranean Sea, and the strait of the Bosporus. To the southeast it is connected with the Red Sea by the man-made Suez Canal.
The Mediterranean Sea has two main subregions – the Eastern and Western. A sub-sea ridge from Sicily to Tunisia is the divider. The ridge is called as the “Strait of Sicily”.
The Mediterranean Sea is subdivided into a number of smaller waterbodies, each with their own designation (from west to east): the Strait of Gibralta, Alboran Sea, Balearic Sea, Ligurian Sea, Tyrrhenian Sea, Ionian Sea, Adriatic Sea and Aegean Sea.
The countries with coastlines on the Mediterranean Sea are Albania, Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Libya, Malta, Morocco, Monaco, Montenegro, Slovenia, Spain, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey. In addition, the Gaza Strip and the British Overseas Territories of Gibraltar and Akrotiri and Dhekelia have coastlines on the sea.
The Mediterranean Sea, including the Sea of Marmara, has a surface area of approximately 2,510,000 square kilometers (970,000 square miles).
It has an average depth of 1,500 meters (4,900 feet) and the deepest recorded point is 5,267 meters (17,280 feet) in the Calypso Deep in the Ionian Sea.
The water volume of the Mediterranean Sea is about 3,750,000 cubic kilometers (900,000 cubic miles).
Its west-east length, from the Strait of Gibraltar to the Gulf of Iskenderun, on the southwestern coast of Turkey, is approximately 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles).
The sea’s average north-south length, from Croatia’s southern shore to Libya, is approximately 800 kilometers (500 miles).
The coastline extends for 46,000 kilometers (28,600 miles).
There are more than 3300 islands in the Mediterranean Sea.
In order, the five largest islands in the Mediterranean are Sicily (Italy), Sardinia (Italy), Cyprus, Corsica (France) and Crete (Greece).
Two independent island nations exist within the Mediterranean Sea: Cyprus and Malta.
The topography of the land surrounding the Mediterranean Sea is varied and there is an extremely rugged coastline in is northern areas. High mountains and steep, rocky cliffs are common here. In other areas, though the coastline is flatter and dominated by desert.
The temperature of the Mediterranean’s water also varies but in general, it is between 10º C and 27º C (50º F and 80º F).
The typical Mediterranean climate has hot, humid, and dry summers and mild, rainy winters.
The vegetation of the region is specially equipped to survive the long very dry summer months.
Historically, the warm and temperate climate of the Mediterranean Sea region allowed numerous ancient peoples to establish themselves and flourish, developing traditions of philosophy, art, literature, and medicine which lie at the roots of modern Western and Middle Eastern culture.
Two of the most notable Mediterranean civilisations in classical antiquity were the Greek city states and the Phoenicians, both of which extensively colonised the coastlines of the Mediterranean. Later, when Augustus founded the Roman Empire, the Romans referred to the Mediterranean as Mare Nostrum (“Our Sea”).
The sea was an important route for merchants and travelers of ancient times that allowed for trade and cultural exchange between emergent peoples of the region.
The name “Mediterranean” has been derived from two Latin words “Medius” and “Terra”. The first term means “middle” and the second “earth” (earth in the sense “soil”, not Planet Earth). To the ancient Romans, the Mediterranean was the center of the Earth as they knew it.
The Mediterranean Sea as we know it today formed about 5.3 million years ago when Atlantic Ocean waters breached the strait of Gibraltar, sending a massive flood into the basin.
The Mediterranean Sea has significant endemism and is biologically distinctive from the adjacent Atlantic Ocean.
Its rocky reefs, seagrass meadows, and upwelling areas are particularly important habitats that support enormous biodiversity. Seagrass meadows provide important habitat, especially as breeding, feeding, and resting areas for numerous marine species, particularly fish, crustaceans, and sea turtles.
Fish stock levels in the Mediterranean Sea are alarmingly low. The European Environment Agency says that more than 65% of all fish stocks in the region are outside safe biological limits and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, that some of the most important fisheries—such as albacore and bluefin tuna, hake, marlin, swordfish, red mullet and sea bream—are threatened.
The Mediterranean Sea is arguably among the most culturally diverse block basin sea regions in the world, with a unique combination of pleasant climate, beautiful coastline, rich history and various cultures. The Mediterranean region is the most popular tourist destination in the world—attracting approximately one third of the world’s international tourists.
Some of the world’s busiest shipping routes are in the Mediterranean Sea. It is estimated that approximately 220,000 merchant vessels of more than 100 tonnes cross the Mediterranean Sea each year—about one third of the world’s total merchant shipping.
By 2100 the overall level of the Mediterranean could rise between 3 to 61 centimeters (1.2 to 24 inches) as a result of the effects of climate change.