The claim: Video shows Atlantic and Pacific oceans, which “don’t mix” due to clay and iron content
The claim that the Atlantic and Pacific oceans “don’t mix” has re-emerged on social media.
“Why the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic ocean don’t mix. The pacific has more clay composition. Atlantic has more Iron. Clay and Iron dont do well together,” reads the caption of an April 27 Facebook post.
The post includes a video, shot from a boat on a large body of water. The video shows what appears to be darker and lighter colored water meeting at a strong demarcated line.
The video was viewed more than a million times in a week.
However, the claim is wrong. The video was shot at a site in Canada where a freshwater river flows into a body of saltwater. Further, the Atlantic and Pacific oceans do mix – and their iron and clay content is not an important factor informing mixture, according to a NASA oceanographer.
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USA TODAY reached out to the Facebook user who shared the claim for comment.
Video does not show Atlantic and Pacific oceans meeting
Rather than the meeting of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the footage was shot in western Canada, according to the company operating the boat in the video. It shows the outflow of the freshwater Fraser River into the Strait of Georgia – a body of saltwater that separates Vancouver Island from mainland British Columbia.
This outflow is sediment-rich, producing a distinct milky plume as it enters the Strait. The plume can be observed from space.
Deborah Marshall, a spokeswoman for Canadian ferry operator BC Ferries told USA TODAY the company’s boats regularly encounter the plume when traversing the Strait of Georgia.
The video appears to show the phenomenon and was filmed aboard the company’s vessel, the MV Coastal Inspiration, she said in an email.
“This video was shot on our route from Vancouver … to Vancouver Island,” Marshall said.
Footage of the boat in the video shows the BC Ferries logo and also displays a Canadian flag, as reported by AFP.
BC Ferries does not regularly travel anywhere the Atlantic and Pacific oceans meet, according to the ferry operator’s route map.
Richard Dewey, the ocean director of science at Ocean Networks Canada, also confirmed the video shows the Fraser River plume.
“I have seen this many times, and it occurs regularly in the May-June time period when the Fraser River discharge peaks due to snow melt in the coastal mountains,” he told USA TODAY in an email. “The Fraser River water is fresh – light – and silty, and the Strait of Georgia water is salty – dense – and clearer blue. As the river plume spreads out, the front is remarkably sharp, much sharper than one might expect in an open ocean environment. “
The footage in the video was previously uploaded to YouTube on July 4, 2015, titled, “When the River Meets the Ocean (Fraser River water flows into the Strait of Georgia).”
The caption, in line with Marshall’s description, says the video was shot from a BC Ferries boat traveling between Vancouver Island and mainland Canada.
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In 2013, local media published a photo of the Fraser River plume that shows a distinct demarcation between the plume and surrounding water similar to that shown in the video. Ocean Networks Canada posted another photo of the phenomenon on its website.
Atlantic and Pacific oceans ‘mix,’ iron and clay content irrelevant
The post also claims the Atlantic and Pacific oceans don’t mix due to their disparate iron and clay contents. But that’s wrong.
“The Atlantic and Pacific Oceans do mix,” NASA oceanographer Josh Willis told USA TODAY.
A system of currents called the global ocean conveyor belt and a surface circulation phenomenon called the “super-gyre” mix ocean waters on a global scale.
He also said that, contrary to the post’s claims, iron and clay content do not impact ocean mixing.
“The places where water from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans meet don’t look like (the area shown in the video),” Willis said.
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USA TODAY has previously debunked other claims associated with this phenomenon.
Our rating: False
Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that a video shows the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, which “don’t mix” due to clay and iron content. The video does not show the meeting of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans but a meeting of freshwater and saltwater in Canada. Further, the oceans can and do mix regardless of clay and iron content.
Our fact-check sources:
- Deborah Marshall, May 5, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- Josh Willis, May 4, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- Richard Dewey, May 4-6, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- AFP, Sept. 14, 2018, No, this video doesn’t show the point where the Atlantic and Pacific oceans “meet but don’t mix”
- Check Your Fact, Aug. 4, 2021, Fact check: Does this video show the Atlantic and Pacific oceans meeting?
- USA TODAY, Feb. 28, 2021, Fact check: Gulf of Alaska image does not show two oceans meeting
- ResearchGate, February 2012, Map of annual average surface iron concentration
- National Geographic, accessed May 4, The Global Conveyor Belt
- Nature, Sept. 5, 2007, Super spin in the southern seas
- YouTube, July 4, 2015, When the River Meets the Ocean (Fraser River water flows into the Strait of Georgia)
- BC Ferries, accessed May 4, Home page
- Georgia Strait Alliance, accessed May 4, About the Strait
- BC Ferries, accessed May 4, Route Map
- NASA Earth Observatory, Jan. 7, 2015, Plume from the Fraser River
- Peace Arch News, June 18, 2013, By the bay: A look at the Fraser River plume
- Ocean Networks Canada, August 6, 2013, Fraser River Plume
- Ocean Networks Canada, accessed May 6, Home page
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