Oceanography The Official Magazine of
The Oceanography Society
Volume 27 Issue 01

View Issue TOC
Volume 27, No. 1
Pages 88 - 91


In Praise of Marine Chemists

By Flip Froelich  
Jump to
Citation References Copyright & Usage
First Paragraph

Shortly after the birth of the science of analytical chemistry, over 100 years ago, the art of measuring the chemicals in the sea began with the arduous task of analyzing the six major salts in sea­water—sodium, magnesium, potassium, calcium, sulfate, and chloride. It soon became apparent that these four cations and two anions make up the bulk of sea salt, and a few more, like boron, strontium, fluorine, and bromine, were all “conservative.” In other words, the salt composition of seawater was quite boring—the salts in seawater from anywhere in the world ocean contain almost exactly the same proportional composition as seawater from anywhere else—and in direct relationship to its “salinity”—a concept that originated with ocean chemists but was forfeited to ocean physicists when the chemical definition of salinity as a measure of salt mass content got corrupted and was no longer useful to calculate in situ seawater density.


Froelich, F. 2014. In praise of marine chemists. Oceanography 27(1):88–91, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2014.12.


Anderson, R.F., E. Mawji, G.A. Cutter, C.I. Measures, and C. Jeandel. 2014. GEOTRACES: Changing the way we explore ocean chemistry. Oceanography 27(1):50–61, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2014.07.

Blum, J., B.N. Popp, J.C. Drazen, C.A. Choy, and M.W. Johnson. 2013. Methylmercury production below the mixed layer in the North Pacific Ocean. Nature Geoscience 6:879–884, https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo1918.

Boyle, E.A., J.-M. Lee, Y. Echegoyen, A. Noble, S. Moos, G. Carrasco, N. Zhao, R. Kayser, J. Zhang, T. Gamo, H. Obata, and K. Norisuye. 2014. Anthropogenic lead emissions in the ocean: The evolving global experiment. Oceanography 27(1):69–75, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2014.10.

Craig, H., R.F. Weiss, and W.B. Clarke. 1967. Dissolved gases in Equatorial and South Pacific Ocean. Journal of Geophysical Research 72:6,165–6,181, https://doi.org/10.1029/JZ072i024p06165.

Culkin, F., and R.A. Cox. 1966. Sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium and strontium in seawater. Deep Sea Research 13:789–804, https://doi.org/10.1016/0011-7471(76)90905-0.

Danielsson, L.-G. 1979. Trace metals in marine waters: Analytical investigations on cadmium, cobalt, copper, iron, lead, nickel and zinc. PhD Thesis, University of Gothenburg.

Edmond, J. 1980. GEOSECS is like the Yankees: everybody hates it and it always wins… K.K. Turekian (1978). Oceanus 23(1):33–39. Available online at: http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/ia/oceanusv2301wood#page/37/mode/1up (accessed December 23, 2013).

Farrington, J.W., and H. Takada. 2014. Persistent organic pollutants (POPs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and plastics: Examples of the status, trend, and cycling of organic chemicals of environmental concern in the ocean. Oceanography 27(1):196–213, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2014.23.

Grand, M.M., C.S. Buck, W.M. Landing, C.I. Measures, M. Hatta, W.T. Hiscock, M. Brown, and J.A. Resing. 2014. Quantifying the impact of atmospheric deposition on the biogeochemistry of Fe and Al in the upper ocean: A decade of collaboration with the US CLIVAR-CO2 Repeat Hydrography Program. Oceanography 27(1):62–65, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2014.08.

Lamborg, C., K. Bowman, C. Hammerschmidt, C. Gilmour, K. Munson, N. Selin, and C.-M. Tseng. 2014. Mercury in the Anthropocene ocean. Oceanography 27(1):76–87, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2014.11.

Mazor, E., G.J. Wasserburg, and H. Craig. 1964. Rare gases in Pacific Ocean water. Deep Sea Research 11:929–932, https://doi.org/10.1016/0011-7471(64)90343-2.

Morris, A.W., and J.P. Riley. 1966. The bromide/chlorinity and sulphate/chlorinity ratio in seawater. Deep Sea Research 13:669–705, https://doi.org/10.1016/0011-7471(66)90601-2.

Noakes, J.E., and D.W. Hood. 1961. Boron-boric acid complexes in sea water. Deep Sea Research 8:121–129, https://doi.org/10.1016/0146-6313(61)90004-1.

Nozaki, Y. 2001. Elemental distribution: Overview. Pp. 840–845 in Encyclopedia of Ocean Sciences, vol. 2. J.H. Steele, S.A. Thorpe, and K.K. Turekian, eds, Academic Press, London, https://doi.org/10.1006/rwos.2001.0402.

Copyright & Usage

This is an open access article made available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution, and reproduction in any medium or format as long as users cite the materials appropriately, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate the changes that were made to the original content. Images, animations, videos, or other third-party material used in articles are included in the Creative Commons license unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If the material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission directly from the license holder to reproduce the material.