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The Ecosystem of the Strait

The Straits of MessinaThe Straits of Messina have a funnel shape with the entrance from the Ionic sea and the exit into the Tirenic sea.
This wonderful stretch of sea which measures 33 km in length, with a maximum width of 16 km from Capo Pellaro to Ali Termeè, whereas from Capo Peloro (ME) to Torre Cavallo in Calabria the distance is about 3km.

The underwater profile of the Straits is similar to a great canal with steep walls, particularly on the Sicilian side.  This underwater signature causes a complex and great range of currents as the Ionic and Tirenic seas met each other numerous times a day at speeds which can reach up to 12 km an hour. A real river in the sea.
This incredible exchange of water was immortalised by Pascoli in 1898 when he said “this is where the Greek waves go to look for the Latin ones”.

The depth of the Straits can reach up to 800m off the coast of Pellaro, around 400m off the seafront area of Reggio Calabria and then a little further north the seabed rises to reach a level at Capo Cavallo (Villa S. Giovanni) which rises to 72m off sea level.

The principal currents, which change direction every six hours, are determined by the earth’s magnetic pull.  The two seas have opposite phases of movement considering their tides; in addition obstacles which cause difficulty in the normal flow of water determine a strong mixing of waters from both seas and water from the seabed.  It is clear that this constant meeting and parting of the water causes limitless whirlpools, vortices of various dimensions, foam, crossed waves and iridescent colours.  The wind almost always added to the complexity of facing the crossing which ancient navigators faced with terror given the complex ecosystem tied to the extreme movement of the water.
All of which certainly helped the birth of myths and legends connected, and not only, to the worrying presence of the sea-monsters Scilla and Cariddi.

The fastest currents are those which flow from south to north and these are the so called “montanti” (ascending currents), while, the others are called the “scendenti” ( descending currents). The Straits is a stretch of sea rich in sea fauna; swarms of fish enter the area as they can find a much higher concentration of plankton there compared to the surrounding areas.
The prince of the Straits is the “swordfish” which is found in these waters, warm seas with numerous currents which allow him to find company in the spring.

The Straits have been defined the “paradise of the zoologists”, they were explored by Jacques Piccard in 1979, a Swiss-French  scientist who on-board his bathyscaphe “Forel” arrived down to 500m. He identified more than 140 species of sea-life and was able to draw the dynamic features of the seabed of the Straits.
Many Diving Centers offer tourists the possibility have expert support in being guided through their exploration of our wonderful seabed.
The Straits reserves for tourists the phenomenon of the beaching of sea creatures which caught up in great underwater vortices can find themselves cast onto the beaches, dazed among the sea algae. 
The exchange between the two seas creates a strange high and low tide called the “marrobio”.

Passing through the Straits on a boat allows you to realize the effect of the currents, the small whirlpools which are presented in the form of a flower; the so called “mare scalinato” (stepped sea) when one current prevails over another; the sea which seems to “boil” when one current is unable to overtake another; the so called “birth” of clear calm water in the centre of rough waves when the ascending currents are passing through, commonly called “oil patches”.
All around warm, golden beaches, rocks, mythical rocky outcrops, the Aspromonte mountain range in contrast to the sea, legends, places that have touched history, made myths and legends.

The fishing of the swordfish, an ancient tradition, today is done mainly with huge nets, while there are still some boats which continue the “feluche” boat tradition of a high tower mounted so that a spotter (fiocinatore) can give the signal when swordfish are present to the rest of the crew to start the catch, not always successfully though.
Why not ask to participate in that fascinating, obsessive hunt, enjoying as a tourist the marvelous reality of the Straits combined with the anxiety and the thrill of this unique task?

The sea-fauna in the Straits boasts the presence of Sea-Bass, John Dory, Sea Snakes,  Ribbonfish, Sea Spiders, Dolphins, Tuna,  Silver Scabbardfish, Trumpet Fish, Sarago, Photophore Fish etc

The seabed offers the vision of the black Sicilian corral, gorgonian (sea fan), pink clouds of Anthias,  Tunicates, Sponges, Algae, Astroides Calycularis, Cerianthus, Claveline, Vaccarella di Mare Sponge, Alcionaries, Poseidons, Mother of Pores, Ascidies, Spyrographs, Alice Mirabilis etc and rare species which sometimes live in symbiosis with other micro organisms.
Therefore, here in the Straits we find incredible aspects which meet, colours, curious stories, scientific elements that can encourage the tourist to take advantage of the opportunity to immerse yourself in our seabed paradise.

As the evening approaches that sea and the surrounding area take on a different chromatic aspect which is almost violet.  From this the definition “Costa Viola” (Violet Coast) given to the area as the light refracts and mixes with the green of the mountains and the varied tonality of the sea; the violet colour of the sulfurous gasses emitted from the active and nearby volcano of Stromboli.

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