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The central gulf is a large body of saltwater between the northern continent and the southern continent. It connects to the western ocean on one side, through the Rockfangs, the island chain belonging to the Duurludirj. It connects to the eastern ocean on the other side. The core of the gulf is bounded there by the Mist Islands belonging to the Irfai, but there's another arc of islands reaching to the very eastern tip of the Northern Continent that defines the easternmost fringes of the central gulf. This area includes time shard #11, #9, #10, #12, #14, #13, #30; the western part of shard #32; plus shard #68 and into shard #69. Detailed here are time shards #12, #13, #14, #66, #68, and #30.
The tropical climate combined with fairly shallow water makes the central gulf saltier than its neighboring oceans, much the way the Mediterranean Sea has a high salt content on Earth. The central gulf also bears some resemblance to the Gulf of Mexico. Much of the seafloor is continental shelf; there are mountain chains creating the islands, along with seamounts underwater. Its average depth is probably about 4,900 feet (about 1,500 meters). This gives rise to extensive coral reefs. Some of this area was above sea level before the Upheaval, and ancient ruins and shipwrecks left by sea monster attacks also provide excellent habitat for corals and small fish. However, there are some deep areas, especially in the very middle of the gulf; the deepest is probably around about 13,100 feet (4,000 meters). The central gulf has rock and sand in shades of yellow and tan, plus some localized swaths of green and/or black. Many species there have green, tan, yellow, and/or orange coloring.
Human activity clusters around water in pleasant climates, so parts of the coast have always been populated. The islands have low population because they're too small to support a lot of people. Some southwestern parts of the northern continent are densely populated, vital parts of the Empire. The southeastern lobe is less settled and puts less pressure on the environment. Little is known about people on the southern continent, but they are not encountered on the sea.
Before Upheaval: Many sea monster species had very low populations, either as part of wildlife management, or as new, introductory species. However, even at that time, there were more species that had evolved in eastern or western oceans or the southern hemisphere, than those native to the central gulf. In addition, perhaps because of the shallower water, the earthquakes and other physical side effects of the Upheaval were particularly hard on some of the species in the central gulf. Coasts in this area changed shape significantly.
Extant species included the blimpfish (several types), central dreamskate, deathfin, eastern thunder-whale, paddlefish, red harpoon snail, snagtooth, southeastern trapjaw, southern soldierfish, and western dreamskate. Additional species of trapjaw and weed-eater also existed, along with various sea jellies. Of those, only the central dreamskate and the red harpoon snail had evolved in the central gulf, and the red harpoon snail was seriously threatened by the Upheaval because of its sensitivity to water quality.
Sundered Times: Weather in some time shards became notably milder, and water travel was less hazardous, as the barriers buffered extreme storms and hindered sea monsters. The northwestern coast along the southeastern lobe of the northern continent (shards #13, #14, and #66) was particularly sheltered. Many species died out, for a variety of reasons.
Time shard #12 had blimpfish, which evolved into southern blimpfish during their isolation. Shard #14 had southern trapjaw. Shards #13 and #66 lost all their sea monsters, though #66 did retain a few smaller predators. Time shard #30 had the central dreamskate, red harpoon snail, and southern soldierfish. The pink jellyrigger also evolved in shard #30.
Modern Times: In recent generations, weather has worsened. Falling time barriers have allowed outside species to expand their range. Fortunately the two surviving sea monsters native to the central gulf -- the central dreamskate and red harpoon snail -- are more than able to hold their own against invaders and are spreading outward. The freshly developed pink jellyrigger has likewise done well. Various new species have entered from all tangent water bodies. The Empire's activity around the mouth of the interior sea and a few other areas has led to increasing pollution locally.
Time shard #12 gained the central dreamskate, deathfin, giant sea turtle, interior weed-eater, pink jellyrigger, southern blimpfish, southern soldierfish, southern trapjaw, and western dreamskate. Time shard #14 gained the central dreamskate, interior soldierfish, interior weed-eater, and southern trapjaw. Time shard #13 gained interior weed-eater, pink jellyrigger, red harpoon snail, southern blimpfish, and southern soldierfish. Time shard #30 gained the giant sea turtle, interior weed-eater, southern blimpfish, and southern trapjaw. From the east it also gained the eastern thunder-whale and eastern weed-eater. The eastern thunder-whale tends to stay east of the Mist Islands. Populations of weed-eater are not rigidly divided, but there are more interior weed-eaters west of the Mist Islands while there are more eastern weed-eaters east of the Mist Islands.
The giant sea turtle is still exploring new habitat, and is quite adaptable. The pink jellyrigger will continue expanding through available warm-water habitat. The deathfin is likely to continue its eastward expansion, eventually reaching new areas of the central gulf. The paddlefish is less likely to expand in the face of pressure from larger and more aggressive species, but is still a possibility. The middle of the gulf contains water deep enough for eastern thunder-whales; they are unlikely to go there willingly, although they might be driven in by a storm and not find their way back out.
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