Oceanography The Official Magazine of
The Oceanography Society
Volume 18 Issue 04

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Volume 18, No. 4
Pages 14 - 27


Oceanography of the Indonesian Seas and Their Throughflow

Arnold L. Gordon | Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences, Columbia University, and Physical Oceanography, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, Palisades, NY, USA

First Paragraph

For the last 20 years, much of my research has been directed at the ~10 percent of the equatorial circumference represented by the Indonesian seas. To understand my entry into Indonesian oceanography, one needs to begin the story about 10,000 miles away along the southern rim of Africa. There, instead of freely continuing into the Atlantic Ocean, the westward-flowing Agulhas Current abruptly curls back to the Indian Ocean in what is referred to as the Agulhas Retroflection. I was curious about the Agulhas Retroflection, having been aware of Gunter Dietrich’s Ph.D. work of 1935 and of the South African oceanographic literature on the subject, and thus I was most pleased to begin fieldwork in this region in November 1983 aboard the R/V Knorr. My curiosity was further piqued as we entered into the Benguela Current off Cape Town. There we quickly entered into a pool of relatively buoyant water contained within a strong anticyclonic eddy. The common wisdom at the time was that the Benguela Current was drawn from the cooler water flowing eastward within the poleward limb of the South Atlantic’s subtropical gyre. After some thought it became apparent that the encountered pool was composed of Indian Ocean thermocline water that somehow wandered into the southeast corner of the South Atlantic Ocean. The water between the eddy and the African coast contained an abundance of Indian Ocean characteristics. The Agulhas Retroflection is not complete; the Atlantic Ocean and Indian southern subtropical gyres are linked, at least occasionally (Gordon, 2003).


Gordon, A.L. 2005. Oceanography of the Indonesian seas and their throughflow. Oceanography 18(4):14–27, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2005.01.

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