Multicolor blues and greens ocean water, Gerstle Cove

Color the Ocean

How many colors does the ocean have? How many do we see?

The human eye sees color, which is remarkable all by itself, but the real magic happens inside, when our optical processor takes the information the eye collects and hands us back a rich replay of shades and gradations and hues.  We call that ‘color’, but in fact it’s ‘colors’ with an s, something only painters and printers perhaps fully appreciate, since they’re obliged for art or accuracy to try and reproduce every one of them.

Most of the time when we look at the ocean and register its color we call it blue or maybe teal, or bottle green in the waves, and that’s about it.  That’s the shortcut our brain hands us if we don’t look any deeper, and we’re usually satisfied with that.

But we’re actually equipped and very capable of seeing very much more; we’re designed with the ability to observe and distinguish an exceptional wealth of individual colors. 

Ever try to describe the actual color of the ocean to someone?  It’s near impossible, even if one only tries half-heartedly, because the water can be dancing with dozens of separate and distinct shades.

And they’re not fixed. As the time of day or seasons shift so do the colors, opaque with grays one minute and then translucent in sunlight the next, reflecting orange sunset, robin blue sky or deep water black.

Not that there’s anything wrong with simple blue and green.  But, why settle for such a meager slice of the spectrum?  There’s no good reason to dilute it all down to an average shade, wash out all the detail, when it’s possible to experience the ocean in full light, absolutely swimming with colors.

Rocky shoreline and blue green bay at Gerstle Cove Salt Point State Park
On a calm day Gerstle Cove at Salt Point State Park is awash with water colors.