History & Cultures

The ocean has played an important role throughout history. Seafaring cultures arose from a need to explore and find other lands, and many coastal communities rely on the sea for food, clothing and more.

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Battle of the Atlantic

The ocean holds a lot of history. Warships from World War II have been found on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean through the...
Master carver Douglas Chilton rides in the Raven Spirit canoe at its ceremonial launch.

Raven Spirit: A Native American Canoe's Journey

Over the course of a year, Douglas Chilton skillfully chipped away at a cedar log with traditional tools used by his ancestors for generations. Chilton, a master carver and member of the Tlingit Nation,...
Nuclear bomb in Bikini Atoll

Naturally Resilient

Coral Reefs Can Recover From Disasters. How Can We Save Them From Us? by Michael Webster, Coral Reef Alliance In 1946, the US military tested nuclear bombs on a coral reef in the Pacific,...
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The Enchanting Sea Monsters on Medieval Maps

Fictitious animals on 16th and early 17th century maps hint at how people’s perception of the ocean has changed over time Jonah is cast overboard to a sea monster in an image from the...
A walrus sits on top of ice.

The Cultural Icescapes of the Arctic

The Inupiaq people of Alaska have more than 100 words for different kinds of sea ice, illustrated here. A female walrus and her calf ( isavgalik ) rest on ice ( nunavait ) in...
A manatee swims in Crystal River, Florida.

From Mermaids to Manatees: the Myth and the Reality

Florida Manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) swimming within a fresh water spring on Crystal River in Florida. Note the tree roots on the right of the frame which make up a portion of this unique...
The Charles W. Morgan tallship

History and Modern Science Collide for the 38th Voyage of the Charles W. Morgan

The Charles W. Morgan sailing en route to Newport on June 15, 2104. Credit: Courtesy of Mystic Seaport. Traveling aboard the Charles W. Morgan , a 173-year-old whaling ship on its 38th Voyage, I’m...
An albatross soars over the ocean.

Is It Love? Why Some Ocean Animals (Sort Of) Mate For Life

We often hear stories of animal love— tales of rare monogamy in the animal kingdom where life-long love is implied. But there is a distinction between romantic love and an efficient mating system. Here’s...

Charles Darwin's Ocean Upwelling

The Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System consists of the largest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere, offshore atolls, and several hundred sand cays, mangrove forests, coastal lagoons, and estuaries. The system's seven sites illustrate...
Satellite view of Earth.

Earth Day, Spawned from the Sea

If the Earth is viewed from this side, uncommonly shown, it looks much more like a blue ocean planet than a green land-filled one. Credit: NOAA/NASA GOES Project Sometimes I think that our planet...
Duria Antiquior – A More Ancient Dorset, 1830

Unearthing History: Mary Anning's Hunt for Prehistoric Ocean Giants

Although in reality an ichthyosaur and plesiosaur would have likely never battled, this widely shared lithograph by artist, geologist and paleontologist Henry De la Beche even inspired author Jules Verne to pen a similar...
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These Sleek, Sexy Cars Were All Inspired by Fish

A 1966 Chevrolet ad for the Mako Shark II. Credit: Chevrolet via Wikimedia Commons By Lauren Ward In 2009, automotive designers at Japanese carmaker Nissan were scratching their heads over how to build the...

The Trouvadore: A Story of Deliverance

Join marine archeologists as they trace the history of the Trouvadore , a slave ship bound for Cuba that wrecked in the Turks and Caicos Islands in 1841, and the ship’s passengers unusual path...
A narwhal breaches the surface, its tusk pointed to the sky

Why a Tusk? The real-life unicorns of the sea and the tusks that make them famous

A narwhal breaching the water's surface, his tusk points to the sky. Male narwhals will sometimes cross their tusks, a behavior called "tusking". Credit: Glenn Williams In the frigid Arctic Ocean , a mysterious...

Ángeles Alvariño: Woman of Many Namesakes

An arrow-worm from the genus Spadella . Alvariño discovered and classified the species Spadella gaetanoi in 1978. Credit: Zatelmar, Wikimedia Commons By Kalila Morsink Latin names of species may seem boring—a litany of extra-long...
Walter Adey and the NMNH coral reef tank

The Evolution of a Reef Aquarium

Adey in front of the original reef microcosm in the National Museum of Natural History. Credit: Smithsonian Institution Archives In the late 1970s, Walter Adey, a paleobiologist and coral reef researcher at the National...
A boat with divers in Clifton Cove

Wood Under Sand: The Search for A Slave Shipwreck

Archaeologists working on the site of the São José. Credit: Jon Sharfman, courtesy Slave Wrecks Project by Danielle Hall An untimely storm with whipping gusts of wind and tumultuous waves, a sweeping current that...
This portrait of William Dampier hangs in London’s National Gallery in recognition of his contribution to natural history.

William Dampier - The Pirate Who Collected Plants

Today you can just hop on a plane and be on another continent within a day's time. But a century ago the only way to get from one continent to another was by sea--and...

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