On the Colour of Sea Water

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Abstract

AITKEN (Proc. R. S. E., vol. ii. p. 472, 1882) has given a complete theory of the colour of sea water as observed at various places, based upon the principle that sea water is a blue liquid. According to this view, the green tint often observed in sea water, especially near land, is to be explained by the presence of fine yellow particles. During a recent voyage by the Messageries steamer Polynesien, I was permitted, through the kindness of Commandant Bullard, to erect a tube 736 cm. long against the rail of the after-deck, and to pass through it a continuous stream of water from the ship's salt water service. The water was taken in well forward and at a depth of two or three metres, and consequently was not soiled by the passage of the ship. I made a series of observations with the apparatus described, matching the colour of the sea water by making mixtures of definite substances, and using these mixtures to fill a tube 18 cm. long, placed alongside the water tube. Both tubes were illuminated by diffused daylight reflected from a white screen, and by the aid of diaphragms, &c., it was arranged so that the angular area of the visible part of the screen was the same whether observed through one tube or the other. Observations were made every day on the voyage from Sydney to Marseilles; but, owing to the uncertainty arising from the contamination of the water by the varnish with which the interior of the tube was protected, it is useless to comment on most of the results obtained, except in so far as they give a means of easily reproducing the exact tint of pure sea water as seen through a column 736 cm. long. Make up the following solution:—

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THRELFALL, R. On the Colour of Sea Water. Nature 59, 461 (1899) doi:10.1038/059461a0

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