Caspian Sea

Caspian Sea
Caspian Sea from orbit.jpg
The Caspian Sea as taken by the MODIS on the orbiting Terra satellite, June 2003
Coordinates41°40′N 50°40′E / 41°40′N 50°40′E / Evaporation, Kara-Bogaz-Gol
Catchment area3,626,000 km2 (1,400,000 sq mi)[1]
Basin countriesAzerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan
Max. length1,030 km (640 mi)
Max. width435 km (270 mi)
Surface area371,000 km2 (143,200 sq mi)
Average depth211 m (690 ft)
Max. depth1,025 m (3,360 ft)
Water volume78,200 km3 (18,800 cu mi)
Residence time250 years
Shore length17,000 km (4,300 mi)
Surface elevation−28 m (−92 ft)
Islands26+
SettlementsBaku (Azerbaijan), Rasht (Iran), Aktaw (Kazakstan), Makhachkala (Russia), Türkmenbaşy (Turkmenistan) (see article)
References[1]
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.

The Caspian Sea is the world's largest inland body of water, variously classed as the world's largest lake or a full-fledged sea. It is an endorheic basin (a basin without outflows) located between Europe and Asia, to the east of the Caucasus Mountains and to the west of the broad steppe of Central Asia. The sea has a surface area of 371,000 km2 (143,200 sq mi) (excluding the detached lagoon of Garabogazköl) and a volume of 78,200 km3 (18,800 cu mi). It has a salinity of approximately 1.2% (12 g/l), about a third of the salinity of most seawater. It is bounded by Kazakhstan to the northeast, Russia to the northwest, Azerbaijan to the west, Iran to the south, and Turkmenistan to the southeast. The Caspian Sea is home to a wide range of species and may be best known for its caviar and oil industries. Pollution from the oil industry and dams on rivers draining into the Caspian Sea have had negative effects on the organisms living in the sea.

The wide and endorheic Caspian Sea has a north–south orientation and its main freshwater inflow, the Volga River, enters at the shallow north end. Two deep basins occupy its central and southern areas. These lead to horizontal differences in temperature, salinity, and ecology. The Caspian Sea spreads out over nearly 750 miles (1,200 km) from north to south, with an average width of 200 miles (320 km). It covers a region of around 149,200 square miles (386,400 square km) and its surface is about 90 feet (27 meters) below sea level. The sea bed in the southern part reaches as low as 1,023 m (3,356 ft) below sea level, which is the second lowest natural depression on Earth after Lake Baikal (−1,180 m, −3,871 ft). The ancient inhabitants of its coast perceived the Caspian Sea as an ocean, probably because of its saltiness and large size.

Etymology

The word Caspian is derived from the name of the Caspi, an ancient people who lived to the southwest of the sea in Transcaucasia.[2] Strabo wrote that "to the country of the Albanians belongs also the territory called Caspiane, which was named after the Caspian tribe, as was also the sea; but the tribe has now disappeared".[3] Moreover, the Caspian Gates, which is the name of a region in Iran's Tehran province, possibly indicates that they migrated to the south of the sea. The Iranian city of Qazvin shares the root of its name with that of the sea. In fact, the traditional Arabic name for the sea itself is Baḥr al-Qazwin (Sea of Qazvin).[4]

In classical antiquity among Greeks and Persians it was called the Hyrcanian Ocean.[5] In Persian middle age, as well as in modern Iran, it is known as درياى خزر, Daryā-e Khazar; it is also sometimes referred to as Mazandaran Sea (Persian: دریای مازندران‎) in Iran.[6] Ancient Arabic sources refer to it as Baḥr Gīlān (بحر گیلان) meaning "the Gilan Sea".

Some Turkic peoples refer to the lake as Khazar Sea. In Turkmen, the name is Hazar deňizi, in Azeri, it is Xəzər dənizi, and in modern Turkish, it is Hazar denizi. In all these cases, the second word simply means "sea", and the first word refers to the historical Khazars who had a large empire based to the north of the Caspian Sea between the 7th and 10th centuries. Some other Turkic ethnic groups refer to the lake as Caspian Sea. In Kazakh, where it is called Каспий теңізі, Kaspiy teñizi, in Kyrgyz: Каспий деңизи (Kaspiy deñizi), in Uzbek: Kaspiy dengizi.

Renaissance European maps labelled it as Abbacuch Sea (Oronce Fine's 1531 world map), Mar de Bachu (Ortellius' 1570 map), or Mar de Sala (Mercator's 1569 map).

Old Russian sources call it the Khvalyn or Khvalis Sea (Хвалынское море / Хвалисское море) after the name of Khwarezmia.[7] In modern Russian, it is called Каспи́йское мо́ре, Kaspiyskoye more.