Oceanic Currents and the Paths of the Sea

Have scientists found the "paths of the seas"? Psalm 8:6-9 says, "Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!"

We know that there are currents and gyres in the oceans, and these may be part of what the psalmist was referring to. However, scientists concede ignorance of ocean circulation patterns, and, as always, more research needs to be done.

Physicist Hepeng Zhang of the University of Texas at Austin, however, has discovered an undersurface wave crashing phenomenon that could be maintaining the slope angle of continental shelves, and may be involved in ocean current mixing.1 In an article posted on ScienceDaily, Professor Zhang said, "How exactly this will contribute to ocean circulation, I really don't know, but it is definitely a step we have to understand before we can understand global ocean circulation."2

Experiments in an aquarium have shown that when underwater wave angles match the angle of the continental slope, "intense waves"2 result. Sediment from continental runoff would, unless otherwise redistributed, pile up and form steep continental slopes. The newly discovered waves are called boundary flows, and are found at the underwater boundary between layers of water with different densities. They may be eroding sediment, mixing it, and maintaining the shallow (three degree average) continental slope angle.

"The internal waves could also play a role in larger ocean currents by bringing cold water up from the deep ocean to the surface at the equator," said Professor Zhang.2 It is significant that in both oceanic and other sciences, there is no experimental data that conflicts with biblical information, rightly interpreted. We hope to discover more about our oceanic currents and we anticipate that new discoveries, like this one, will underscore the truth of Scripture.


  1. Zhang, H. P. et al. 2008. Resonant Generation of Internal Waves on a Model Continental Slope. Physical Review Letters. 100 (24): 244504. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.100.244504
  2. Invisible waves shape continental slope. Science News. Posted on sciencedaily.com July 1, 2008, accessed July 2, 2008.

* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer.

Article posted on July 8, 2008.

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