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Created for the benefit of man

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“Ocean, a body of water occupying two-thirds of a world made for man- who has no gills”- Ambrose Bierce

“The foundation of the earth and everything that dwells in it was laid on the sea. So the sea affects the entire world greatly. Throughout history, people have always been drawn to the sea for food and other resources, and as a means of travel. Parker, in his book titled The Power of the Sea, states that: ‘The sea has been known to man to be a veritable source of food and the path to exploration, trade, prosperity, but has the power to end life and destroy property at any time without an early warning.’ The birds of the air, the fish in the sea, and other creatures were made by the Creator for the pleasure of man. As more scientists learn about the planet, they discover that the sea was custom-made and uniquely suited for the existence of man.

The sea covers almost 75% of the earth’s surface, contains approximately 97% of the earth’s water, and almost 90% of the world’s trade travels is by sea, according to the International Maritime Organization. Africa and other continents of the world namely America, Europe, and Asia are bounded by sea. The Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans including the Mediterranean Sea have provided challenges and opportunities for seafarers, merchants and explorers. “More than 80,000 merchant ships involving 1.5 million seafarers in more than 150 nations carrying and transporting about 10 billion tonnes of cargo ply the oceans for commercial purposes.”

Maritime nations with a reasonable knowledge of how to explore and exploit living and mineral resources within their maritime environment are rewarded by the sea. Some nations make good use of the sea through trade and commerce, adventure and discovery, while others do not possess the wherewithal to benefit from the rich minerals and natural resources beneath the seabed. The sea, thus, presents opportunities and challenges to maritime and landlocked nations.

For many years, storms have posed enormous challenge at sea. The waves running ahead of storms always move with a warning cry, but seafarers have learnt to read the “language of waves” in a scientific manner. Although, those who go to the sea in ships for business face challenges, they still appreciate the work of the Creator and His wonders in the deep sea. These challenges are from stormy winds which lift up the waves of the sea. As a result of the changing pattern of the wave, shipsroll, pitch, and yaw. And in the turbulent situation at sea, seafarers reel to and fro, stagger like a drunk, and they are at the wits end. They are demoralized, and at times miserable and frustrated. Their souls melt away in their misery. Most seafarers cry out to the Lord in troubled waters, He brings them out of their miseries. When the storm calms down through divine intervention, the waves are still. Once the storm calms down, seafarers are glad, and they are able to navigate their ships to the desired haven.

Closely linked to the state of the sea is the climate change phenomenon. Some experts have admitted that the interaction between the sea, the land, and the atmosphere shape global climate. To live with the sea, man needs the capacity to forecast when it will revolt against him. Electronic devices have been made to know exactly what is going on at sea, but predictions are not always accurate. Despite advancement in technology, the sea cannot be entirely be predicted, therein lie one of its challenges. As a result, no man is endowed intellectually to provide adequately against devastating effects of earthquakes or volcanic eruptions or pestilence or famine.

When the sea turns its enormous power against humanity, the best protection for man is to get out of its way. To accurately predict the power of the sea and its actions, man must learn how and why the sea works in so many complex ways. The complex nature of the sea and its elements have been of great concern to naval strategists. An accurate knowledge of wave conditions will enable the conduct of activities such as naval operations, merchant vessel routing, seaplane landings, offshore drilling near construction and commercial fishing more efficiently and safely.

An experienced sailor will observe that there are many signs that will help him or her have an idea of what kind of weather is approaching. Signs that a weather is approaching includes a drop in weather temperature, formation of large billowy clouds, drop in atmospheric pressure, and darkening of the clouds amongst others. Professional meteorologists take into account all the above criteria in addition to having access to other sophisticated devices such as satellites and Doppler radars.

So it is necessary to understand what drives those movements visible to man, and where its power comes from. The power of the sea comes from the sun, the moon, and the earth. The sea plays a vital role in climate change, forcing weather patterns around the globe to change. Climate change is also responsible for coastal erosion and flooding. If man is to come up with defences against climate change, he must evolve accurate prediction methods. Whether the cause of the current global warming is occasioned by increased carbon dioxide from the use of fossil fuels, or many years of deforestation, or all the stated reasons, the sea still plays a key role in climate changes experienced globally.

The effects of climate change are already evident in world oceans. Predicted increases in storm intensity and rising sea levels will worsen coastal erosion and flooding with implications for both natural and man-made heritage features. Changes in sea temperature and salinity will have significant impacts on marine organisms and food chains, fishing, and aquaculture activities. Africa, the least economically developed continent, and other parts of the world, face extreme risks from climate change including drought, crop failure and flooding.”

  • Excerpt from Sea Power and the Development Question in Africa, by MA Johnson currently undergoing publication.

MA Johnson

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