Sea of Marmara. Description, history

The Sea of Marmara and the facts about it: earthquakes, tsunamis and slime

The Sea of Marmara is Turkey’s world-famous pearl. On the coast of its water area there are dozens of resorts, where both locals and tourists love to relax. But not all of them think about the history of origin, hydrological and other features of the reservoir. Read about all this in the new article by 24CMi.

The history of its emergence and discovery

Marmara Sea emerged 2.5 million years ago, when the tectonic rift occurred – the supercontinent divided into Africa, Europe and Asia. A new basin filled with water was created, along with a seismic hazardous area that the region remains to this day.

Before the plates parted, the area was home to an ancient ocean called the Thetis. After geological changes, it changed shape and broke apart. The Marmara Sea today is one of its relics.

The water area was first described by the Russian sailor Mikhail Manganari at the turn of 1845-1848. Later, closer to the end of the XIX century, a number of hydrological and biological studies were carried out here. They were also engaged in the representatives of the Russian Empire – Stepan Makarov and Joseph Spindler. The latter led in 1890-1891 years by a special expedition of the Imperial Academy of Sciences and the Russian Geographical Society.

Origin of the name

The Sea of Marmara is so called because the name comes from the local island of Marmara. Translated, it means “light stone.” In these places even people of Ancient Rome 1.5 thousand years ago, mined marble – was considered an amazing stone, the gift of the gods.

For several centuries, marble as well as granite were quarried here to build palaces, pedestals, sarcophagi. Scientists admit that stone of similar quality and properties is found nowhere else on the planet.

In more ancient times, the body of water was called the Proponida, or Predomorie. The Greeks considered it a lake, which opened the way to the Black Sea. Travelers of that era went there through the Mediterranean Sea, the Sea of Marmara and the Bosphorus Strait.

Geographic location

It is not difficult to find the body of water on the map: the Sea of Marmara is located where Europe and Asia meet, or rather, both parts of Turkey. The sea lies on the coast of this state in the northwest, dividing it into the Asia Minor and Europe Minor sides, and belongs to the Atlantic Ocean.

The Dardanelles Strait connects it in the southwest with the Aegean Sea, and in the northeast the Bosphorus Strait leads to the Black Sea. Two rivers, the Susurluk and the Granicus, flow into the Sea of Marmara. There are 23 islands scattered in the area.

The geographic area is characterized by a unique nature – the coastline mostly looks like a mountainous steep terrain. But it’s flanked by postcard-perfect bays and picturesque sandy beaches, beckoning travelers from all over the world.

The properties of the water and its inhabitants

The Sea of Marmara is 280 km long and up to 80 km wide. The depth is shallow – 1404 m at the maximum, and does not exceed 300 m on the perimeter. The bottom consists of three depressions stretched almost along the Earth’s parallel. Two of them lie in the western part, separated by a seamount. At Marmara Island, they are 500-700 m and 1260 m deep. Another basin extends southwest from the Prince Islands, which is the deepest point.

The area of the natural site is 11 470 sq. km. The water temperature in any of its zones, even during the cold season, does not drop below +8 °C.

The sea is very salty, although the salt content is unevenly distributed. On the surface salinity reaches 26 ppm, much higher than in the neighboring Black Sea. In the seabed area is even higher – up to 38 ppm, which is comparable to the Mediterranean Sea.

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There are enough inhabitants in the water – mussels, oysters, crabs, squids and so on. The fish are mackerel, mullet, horse mackerel, herring, tuna and so on. Sharks as permanent residents are not found here. The only known case, when in 2016 a large individual was caught. But they came to the conclusion that a shark weighing 450 kg swam here by accident, chasing a school of fish.


The Marmara Sea has a favorable climate, with an average annual temperature of +15 ° C. In June the temperature rises to +24 ° C, in January it does not fall below +7 ° C.

The wind blows mainly from the northeast for 9 months. Local Turks call it Meltem. It usually blows in summer. In the winter, when it tries to resist the gusts from the south-east, it is stronger and brings to the area, by local standards, inclement weather in the form of cold and snow.

When the weather is good in the summer, there are light breezes on the coast. But it is most favorable in the fall. This time of year lasts a long time – in mid-October the temperature does not drop below 21 ° C during the day. The healthiest and healthiest climate is characteristic of the European coast, especially the Princes’ Islands.

Sea of Marmara. Принцевы острова в Мраморном море (

The Prince Islands in the Sea of Marmara / Photo:

The smallest sea

The Sea of Marmara is officially recognized as the smallest sea in the world. But things are not as unambiguous as, for example, with the largest – the Sargasso Sea. The fact is that among scientists there is no common position. The reason is the constantly changing climatic and natural conditions, which entail changes in the standards of classification.

Some bodies of water that were formerly considered seas are now recognized as lakes. The first one that comes to mind is the Caspian Sea. But the opposite also happens – a number of bays on Earth are being considered, which in the near future are likely to be declared seas. And who knows, perhaps a new smallest one will appear among them.

Among the smallest seas today is the Davis Sea. It is the southernmost point of the Indian Ocean near Antarctica and the Queen Mary Land. The area is 20 thousand square kilometers.

In Russia, the smallest recognized Sea of Azov. However, it is also the shallowest in the world. The bottom is flat, without depressions and pronounced relief. Its lowest point is 14 meters.

Today Marmara Sea is the smallest in terms of area, but in contrast to other tiny bodies of water, it is not considered shallow and belongs to the places with developed navigation.


Seafarers, as a rule, do not experience any difficulties when passing through this area by ships and vessels. In addition to modern navigation aids, they are aided by 11 lighthouses placed on the islands and coastal areas.

Sailing mainly takes place on the way from Istanbul to the Dardanelles Strait and back. On the trade canal ships of the English, French, Austrian and Russian fleets sail. Each year, up to 700 ships stop at the main local port of Gallipoli.

The primary goods for the maritime trade of the Sea of Marmara are bread, leather, wool, and sheep. But judging by recent trends, merchant shipping in these parts is slowly becoming scarce. A number of once thriving commercial ports stand abandoned.

In addition, sailing yachts and barges are used for shipping here. There are daily passenger flights to the coast of the Princes Islands.

Rest and recuperation

The small size has not prevented thousands of tourists from visiting the Sea of Marmara every year. On its shores stands majestic Istanbul, an ancient city with a rich culture and history. And the local scenery with its forested rocky terrain is unlikely to leave anyone indifferent – it is hard to resist taking a photo to remember.

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All kinds of people come here – from singles to families with children. The elegant sites, cozy bays, and endless beaches provide hundreds of recreational options to suit all tastes.

There are 23 islands overlooking the Sea of Marmara. But not all of them are inhabited. But on the inhabited areas of land everything is done for a pleasant relaxation. Most often, travelers arriving in Turkey, stop at such places of temporary residence, as:

  • Marmara;
  • Prince Islands;
  • Ekinlik;
  • Pashalimany;
  • Avşa or Türkeli.

Each island is packed with attractions. For example, on Marmara tourists tend to visit the curious open-air museum, which presents hundreds of exhibits from Byzantine times and ancient Rome. The island of Avsha is famous for the fact that next to the picturesque sea coast the best wine cellars of the southern country are waiting for the guests. The 6 Prince Islands also offer dozens of historical monuments and entertainment venues of various kinds.

The mountain scenery is surprisingly interspersed with sandy beaches, which are washed by the azure waves. But besides that, people from all over the world come here to the thermal springs. It is not just a holiday, but also a recovery.

Clean sea air, free from exhaust gases and other harmful impurities, has a positive effect on the health of people who have bad lungs.

Sea of Marmara. Стамбул на Мраморном море (

Istanbul on the Sea of Marmara / Photo:

The most dangerous sea

After familiarizing yourself with the tourist attractions, it’s hard to believe that the Sea of Marmara is considered the most dangerous sea in the world. Yes, it has a pleasant climate, warm water without sharks and poisonous jellyfish, but the threat does not come from here.

The North Anatolian Fault runs along the bottom and regularly triggers natural disasters, earthquakes and tsunamis. Earthquakes have been recorded here since 1300 B.C. Since then, they are periodically repeated. During the observation period, they occurred 300 times. The number of tsunamis has been lower, with 40 occurrences. The last one dates back to 1999: on August 17, there was an earthquake in the area of the fault, which caused a tsunami with waves of 2.5 meters high.

Geologists predict that the next devastating event will occur near Istanbul in 2030. The Turkish government knows about it – it is expected to take measures to prepare for trouble. If the authorities ignore the warning of the scientists, it will result in losses of up to 75 thousand people and the appearance of 1 million citizens who lost their homes.

But in addition to the seismic danger, the waters of the Sea of Marmara are frightening with strange-looking slime. In the summer of 2021, a thick, gray-green mass spread across the water. It covered not only the surface, but also went down to a depth of 30 meters.

This case is recognized as the largest in history. The fact is that something similar has been recorded before – for the first time something similar was found in the Aegean Sea in 2007 off the coast of Greece. But that time the substance was not enough – it did not pose a threat. The current slime began to spread in December, and by July it had grown to unprecedented proportions.

Unpleasant slime is a natural phenomenon that occurs due to excessive growth of phytoplankton in polluted water and at elevated temperatures. It is dominated by carbohydrates, proteins and microscopic algae.

Researchers state that the cause of this formation is untreated sewage, through which technical waste from factories enters the sea. Also harmful substances enter from rivers. In addition, scientists believe that climate change has had an impact. Due to the increase in temperature, microorganisms multiplied faster and took this form. Another view is that the slime is the result of oversaturation of the algae with nutrients from pollutants.

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The danger is that the substance gradually sinks to the bottom and destroys the corals under its disgusting cover. In addition, sea creatures suffocate because the flow of oxygen to the water is blocked.

Seafarers and local fishermen experience inconvenience. The thick substance clogs the bottoms of ships, clogs the fishing nets and propellers of engines.

Attractions, facts and legends of antiquity

A number of ancient legends are associated with the surroundings of the Sea of Marmara. For example, an ancient myth that explains the origin of the name of the Bosphorus Strait.

The beautiful Io was the lover of Zeus. But she was turned into a white cow, which, trying to escape the angry wife of the main god Hera, dived into the strait. That is how it got its name, which means “cow ford.”

The name of the Princes’ Islands originates from the royalty and other courtiers, who were sent here in exile in the Byzantine era.

Nearby, at the entrance to the Dardanelles, is the legendary Troy. To be more precise, the ruins, which today have the status of an archaeological reserve. Here tourists can see the ruins of the city wall, the Hall of Columns, the Greek temple of Athena and other evidence of a bygone civilization.

Interesting facts are associated with relatively modern periods. Thus, the Turks associate Prinkipos island with the name of their great writer Sait Faik Abasiyanik. But for the history of Russia, this place is also memorable – Leon Trotsky lived here after he left the Soviet Union.

Despite the fact that the Sea of Marmara is small and somewhat dangerous, it never ceases to attract the people of the world with its beautiful sights, artifacts of antiquity and a favorable climate.

Sea of Marmara

Sea of Marmara, Turkey's inland sea.

There is a place on Earth where Europe and Asia are separated by some 80 km of water – such is the width of the Sea of Marmara. This inland sea of Turkey is located in the northwest of the country and serves as a natural boundary between the vast Asia Minor part of the country (97% of the area) and 3% of its European possessions in the Balkan Peninsula.


There is a place on Earth where Europe and Asia are separated by some 80 km of water – such is the width of the Sea of Marmara. This inland sea of Turkey is located in the northwest of the country and serves as a natural boundary between the vast Asia Minor part of the country (97% of the area) and 3% of its European possessions in the Balkan Peninsula.

One of the world’s smallest seas has always had an important economic, political and strategic significance: the most important trade routes from Europe to Asia have long run along it and its shores. The Sea of Marmara is connected to the Black Sea by the Bosphorus Strait (or “Cow’s Ford” according to the ancient legend). And through the Dardanelles Strait it connects to the Aegean Sea. The Sea of Marmara emerged in a depression in the Earth’s crust at about the same time as the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea. This geological episode in the Earth’s history dates back approximately to the beginning of the Quaternary period (about 2.5 million years ago). The rifts in the Earth’s crust that occurred then separated the continents of Europe, Asia and Africa. The Bosporus and the Dardanelles are sometimes seen as the remnants of an ancient riverbed, at the time of its existence the Sea of Marmara was still a lake, as was the Black Sea. Before the melting of the glaciers as a result of climate warming some 10,000 years ago, the level of the ocean was 120-140 m lower than today. About 7,400 years ago, the waters of the Atlantic filled the Mediterranean Sea, and from there through the “Dardanelles River” flowed into Lake Marmara. Some 250 years later, as a result of natural disasters (including frequent earthquakes), the level of the lake rose so high that the Bosphorus turned into a strait.

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The bottom of the Sea of Marmara is made up of three basins: two of them reach 1260 m, and the third is 1404 m deepest part of the sea. More than half of its area is the coastal strip, where the depth varies from 90-100 m.

The salinity of the sea is uneven: at the depths, it is close to that of the Mediterranean, while at the surface it is more reminiscent of the Black Sea. The seas interact like communicating vessels, and the Black Sea is made less saline by the full-flowing rivers that flow into it. At the same time, the level of the Black Sea is now higher, and its waters, conventionally speaking, “overflow over the edges”. Bosphorus into the Sea of Marmara, forming a constant surface current with desalinated water in it. At the depths, a parallel process takes place: due to the pressure difference, the salty water of the Aegean is “pumped” through the Dardanelles into the deep layers of the Sea of Marmara. The undercurrents bring it into the Black Sea, a fact long known to local fishermen.


The sea is thought to be named after its largest island, Marmara (from the Latin marmor meaning “marble”), where white marble was mined. Its shores were inhabited by different peoples. It was especially important to the Greeks, leaving a deep mark on their culture. The Greeks called it Propontis or Propontida (Propontfs, from pro, “before” and pontos, “sea”; i.e., “pre-sea”). They appeared here as a result of the wave of Greek colonization in the eighth and sixth centuries BC, which resulted from the mass migration of inhabitants of different backgrounds (from the poor to the aristocrats), destitute or dissatisfied with the internal policies of the state. In the new territories they often founded agricultural settlements, such as the Byzantine village on the shore of the Bosporus, the colony of Kizik on the Sea of Marmara itself and others. The Sea of Marmara also left its mark on Greek mythology: it was its waters that the legendary Argonauts waded.

In the 3rd century, the Sea of Marmara became the scene of the Scythian War (238-271) fought by the Roman Empire against the barbarian tribes. Later, Byzantine culture flourished here and the battles of the Byzantine-Persian wars (VI-VII centuries) took place. The history of the sea remembers clashes with the Avars and Arabs, Bulgarians and Crusaders.

At the end of the 17th century, the Russian Empire first declared its interests in the area, demanding that both straits of the Sea of Marmara be opened to Russian ships.

In terms of shipping the straits are very narrow (the Bosporus is 700 to 3700 meters wide and the Dardanelles at its narrowest point is 1300 meters), which gives the power that owns them full control of the situation on the seas. Only in 1840-ies the international regulation of the straits “work” regime was established.

After the fall of Byzantium, the coastal territory became the property of the Ottoman Empire. During the First World War, the Sea of Marmara became the focal point of the Dardanelles (Gallipoli) operation (February 19, 1915 – January 9, 1916) that targeted the strategically vital straits of the sea and Constantinople that had been seized by the Entente members. All the participants suffered enormous losses (the Ottoman Empire – 186,000 dead, wounded and missing, and the British – 119,700). In the end, the Entente was defeated and the Turks strengthened their position on the international stage. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Sea of Marmara naturally passed to the Republic of Turkey, formed in 1923.

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It is curious that this Turkish Sea was best explored by the Russian scientists, the list of whom was opened in 1845-1848 by the hydrographer Mikhail Petrovich Manganari (1804-1887). His research resulted in the first accurate map of the sea. The first accurate oceanological survey of the sea was made in 1894 – it was also made by the Russians. The biological and hydrological studies were continued by the Russian scientists Stepan Osipovich Makarov (1848-1904) and Joseph Bernardovich Spindler (1848-1919). A considerable contribution to the study of the Sea of Marmara was made by the expeditions that took place in 1891 under the aegis of the Russian Geographic Society and the Imperial Academy of Sciences with the assistance of the Turkish side. In Soviet times, the Vityaz, the flagship of the national research fleet, continued its studies under the flag of the USSR Academy of Sciences.

Today, the Marmara Sea region is industrially developed, with the Istanbul-Bursa-Izmit industrial axis running through it. On an industrial scale, food, electrical appliances, cement, textiles, metallurgical, petrochemical and paper products are produced in the coastal areas, car manufacturing (Toyota factory), production of wagons and ships flourish. Its proximity to the sea is convenient for local industrial and commercial centers: in addition to important sea routes, there are highways connecting Asia with Europe. Living an active industrial, commercial, cultural and tourist life, the Marmara Sea region has become one of the most densely populated in the country. However, it is not always for the benefit of the sea: unfortunately, it is quite polluted, and the accident of Russian tanker Volgoneft-248 in 1999 almost led to an environmental disaster. Nevertheless, the saturation of the region with cultural sites guarantees a stable interest of tourists. Istanbul alone, former Constantinople, with its countless monuments, Asian-European coloring and bridges symbolically linking the banks: the Bosphorus Bridge (1074 m, 1973) and Sultan Fatih (1090 m, 1988) are expensive. And then there are the carpet-carpeted Hereke and having a unique irrigation system, the agricultural Adapazari, industrial Izmit (ancient Nicomedia) with the mausoleum of Sheikh Edebali and the cultural festival in his honor, and Söğüt with the tomb of the leader of the first Turkish settlers Ertugrul Gazi. Yalova with the healing thermal baths and the birthplace of the first Ecumenical Council Iznik (Nicaea), the first capital of the Ottoman Empire Bursa, and much more.

Sea of Marmara on the map

General Information

Inland Sea of Turkey. The largest city: Istanbul (formerly Constantinople) 12 782 960 inhabitants (2010) The country’s straits: Bosphorus, Dardanelles. The largest bays are Izmit (ancient Nicomedia, 47 km), Mudanya (36 km). The largest islands are Marmara, Hekceada, Bozcaazha, and the Princes’ Islands. The rivers that flow into the country are: Granik, Susurluk. Biga, Genen. Major ports: Istanbul, Izmit, Yalova. Major airports: Ataturk International Airport. Ataturk International Airport (Istanbul, European part). Sabiha Gokcen International Airport (Istanbul, Asian part).


Length: 280 km. Width: 80 km. Area: 11,472 km 2 . Volume: 4,000 km 3 . Greatest depth: 1404 m .


The Marble Sea region produces about 37% of Turkey’s GDP. Industry: marble quarries, coal and iron ore mining (in small quantities), metallurgical, petrochemical, cement, paper, electrical, textile and food processing industries; machine building, including automobile and shipbuilding. Agriculture: cattle breeding (sheep for wool and leather), plant growing (cereals, fruits, sugar cane, coffee). Viticulture, winemaking, olive growing (Princes’ Islands). Fishing. Services: tourism, logistics, trade.

Climate and weather.

Moderate. Average temperature in January: +7ºС. Average temperature in July: +24°С. Average temperature of water in January: +9°C. Average water temperature in July: +24°C. Non-freezing sea: Water temperature at the surface in winter +9 ºС, in summer up to +29 ºС. The water temperature below 200 meters throughout the year is +14.2 ° C.

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