Why don’t we get the blues in Hilton Head?

Oceans cover more than 70 percent of the earth’s surface, so perhaps this is why we’re drawn to the ocean. Cities seem to cluster near them and for landlubbers, it has a magnetic pull for vacations. If you’ve visited the Caribbean or west coast beaches, you may wonder why we don’t have the deep blues seen elsewhere.

Our ocean view may at times be more of a deep green color, or perhaps have a golden tint. There are many factors that affect the color of the ocean, according to NASA researchers. In certain places of the world, the ocean can appear more blue or green. In some places, the tint may even be more orange or violet.

How Deep’s the Water?

If you have ever taken one of our local dolphin sight-seeing cruises or gone deep sea fishing off our shores, you will find the water takes on a much bluer hue as you get further out. This is partly because the unique, fine sand of the Atlantic Ocean’s seabed is not reflecting colors back to the surface as readily as it is in more shallow water.

Tiny Sun Loving Organisms

Beyond the depth of the water and the makeup of the seabed, another factor in the color of the water has to do with life forms that exist here. Our waters are very nutrient rich, teeming with healthy plankton that are full of chlorophyll, which gives the sea a warm green tint unique to our area along the coast. These rich plankton help keep nature in balance and are a sign of healthy waters. In the warmer months, plankton can bloom in population, meaning that the water can become even greener in the summer. It may not be postcard pretty, but our water’s teeming with life!

Death Feeds Life

Another contributing factor to our ocean color is the impact from salt marshes. The salt marshes and river tributaries in the low country bring organic matter called detritus to the ocean. These can lend a more brown or golden hue to the water. This organic matter is produced by the natural decomposition of plants and other life forms and helps to feed sea life.

Because our beaches are teeming with healthy food for fish, their populations attract larger fish and birds to the party. If you are at the beach and see fish jumping or a lot of birds diving in a specific area, this may mean that a larger fish is having lunch nearby!