The open ocean - the sea beyond the influence of coastal waters - is perhaps Earth's largest habitat.
It is a great engine of energy, interacting with the atmosphere to produce our climate, moving vast
amounts of water in its system of currents and serving as an open highway for our planet's most
Contact for page content: Robert Steelquist
For those of us bound to land, all we see of it is the horizon line, decorated with perhaps a
breathtaking sunset or an impending squall. For those of us fortunate enough to slip past the sight
of land, it is the world of the albatross, the sperm whale, the tuna and other world travelers.
Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary occupies the boundary between the coastal ocean - waters
influenced by rivers, nearshore currents, upwelling – and the big Pacific beyond. The sanctuary's
outermost boundaries lie just at the edge of the continental shelf. In this transition zone, life
forms mix. Albacore tuna, for example, school at the edge of the cold water that wells up along the
coast. Each year, thousands of fur seals migrate along the continental shelf in their journeys to
and from the Pribilof Islands, in Alaska. Albatross ride the air currents over ever-moving swells,
roaming to productive coastal waters from their nests and babies on Midway Island in the hunt for
squid and other nutritious food.
Sea turtles and mola molas, the odd-looking ocean sunfish, bask on
the surface, carried by ocean currents.
It is here, on the everchanging surface of the open sea, that we experience our planet’s ultimate
wilderness. Vast in its scale, unknowable in its depths, it perpetually delivers mystery.