Letter | Published:

Oceanic Circulation

Nature volume 6, pages 453454 | Download Citation



THE letters of Prof. Everett and Mr. Wallace (NATURE, Aug. 22) establish one point which must go a good way towards the settlement of the disputed question of the cause of oceanic circulation, viz., that in order to maintain the bare mechanical possibility of the gravitation theory, it is necessary to assume that water is so nearly quite devoid of molecular resistance to motion that, were it not for the impediments offered by continents, water flowing from a low to a comparatively high latitude would be revolving eastwards with the velocity of an arrow. In the southern hemisphere, where continents are “few and far between,” and where a comparatively open channel exists through which the waters may circulate round the globe at any velocity without much impediment, this rapid general eastward motion of the ocean ought to be developed to a large extent. But the fact remains that no such motion has ever been observed. Dr. Carpenter says:—“It is well known to navigators that there is a perceptible ‘set’ of warm surface water in all the southern oceans towards the Antarctic Pole; this ‘set’ being so decided in one part of the Southern Indian Ocean as to be compared by Capt. Maury to the Gulf Stream of the North Atlantic” (NATURE, March 24, 1870). This general motion of the water in the southern hemisphere Dr. Carpenter adduces as strong evidence in favour of his theory. But why is not the “set” as much to the east as to the south? If the presence of the Antarctic continent does not hinder the motion of the water polewards, why should the presence of the continents of Australia or the southern portion of South America hinder the motion of the water eastward, seeing that rotation performs about 1,500 times more work in deflecting the water eastward than the difference of specific gravity performs in impelling the water southward? The very fact that the water does not turn to the east but moves straight towards the Antarctic continent, shows that the waters must be impelled by a force immensely greater than that derived from difference of specific gravity, because it must be greater than that derived from rotation, or else the “set” would be as much to the east as to the south. There are, it is true, a few currents in the southern hemisphere with an eastern motion, but these the advocates of the gravitation theory would call “mere surface drifts produced by the winds.” Besides the majority of the currents in that hemisphere move in wrong directions to be explained either by difference of specific gravity or by rotation.

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  1. Edinburgh August 27



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