Created By: HeartOctober 28, 2011 Last Edited By: NoaqiyeumSeptember 27, 2012
Troped

Alien Sea

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope

One of the quickest, easiest ways to establish an alien world as being very unlike Earth is to make its "water" some wacky colour, or give it some other unusual features or appearance. It's not always explained exactly what kind of chemicals or minerals are causing it to look this way, but regardless, it's still perfectly able to support the native flora and fauna (though that doesn't mean it is safe for Earthlings).

Compare to Alien Sky, which serves the same purpose - note that Earth's oceans mostly just reflect the colour of the sky, so if the two don't match you must be someplace exceptionally alien. Contrast All Planets Are Earth Like.

(Indices: Spectacle, Tropes At Sea, Tropes In Space, Speculative Fiction Tropes)


Examples:

Literature
  • The seas of Malacandra have the peculiar quality of very pointy standing waves; the seas of Perelandra, on the other hand, are orange, and have floating mats of seaweed on which 'land-dwelling' life grows instead of islands.
  • The Amoebic Sea, of Wayne Barlowe's Speculative Documentary Expedition (and its adaptation Alien Planet) is actually a living gelatinous colloid of microorganisms. The edge of the sea towers over the surrounding beach.
  • The book Solaris depicts a strange planet completely covered by a multicolored sea. There were two film versions of the book which also contained this sea.
  • The Dragaera series reveals in passing that the ocean is orange, although it's unclear if this applies to the whole thing or just the portion that's blanketed by the Overcast.

Manga and Anime
  • The oceans of Namek in Dragon Ball are green (and the vegetation is blue).

Tabletop RPG
  • Call Of Cthulhu
    • Campaign The Fungi from Yuggoth, adventure "Halls of Celaeno". The fourth planet of the star Celaeno (in the Pleaides) has a grey ocean.
    • Fragments of Fear (second Cthulhu Companion), adventure "Valley of the Four Shrines". The PCs can use a Crystal Ball-like device to view the gray Lake of Hali where Hastur the Unspeakable lives (a planet circling the star Aldebaran).
  • Dungeons And Dragons
    • Adventure Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits. One of the alternate worlds the PCs can visit from Lolth's Web is a planet with a pink ocean.

Television
  • In a scene in Star Trek Deep Space Nine various characters compare the tint of the oceans on their homeworlds. Earth's are blue. Bajor's are green. Trill's are purple.
  • The Doctor Who story "Mindwarp" opens with the TARDIS landing on the beach on a planet where the ocean is bright pink.

Video Games
  • While never explicitly stated, the oceans of Age 233 are known to be highly acidic. For one thing, Gehn collects his water from a giant bowl on the roof. For another... well, try and guess the range of the tidal zone.
    • From the same series (and game), Riven has water that is more of a gelatinous colloid suspended in a mesh f microorganisms that are noticeably afraid of heat.
    • Multiple Ages - Spire, Relto, and Kadish Tolesa among them - have a 'sea' consisting of a thick layer of fog.
    • The enormous lake surrounding Ae'gura was filled with algae that caused it to glow in the dark 3/5 of the time, producing a day/night cycle. Until the algae were wiped out, of course.
    • The 37th Age has a sea filled with 'dark currents'; when the seawater mixes with the freshwater that flows from the rivers of the one charted island, it releases a thick mist which the inhabitants worship as The Whiteness.
    • Torus' twin "seas" are connected through the hole in the centre of the ring; driven by a force of unknown origin, the water on one side drains through an enormous whirlpool and into an enormous fountain on the other, where it gushes into the upper atmosphere, evaporates, breezes to the 'edge' of the ring, and condenses and falls as rain.
  • In Populous, four of the terrains have differently-colored substances that function the same as water in the others: Rock & Lava has red lava, Bit Plaius has floating letters spelling BULLFROG, Cake Land has caramel, and Silly Land has a checkerboard pattern.
  • Natural seas in Spore can be blue, green, or red.
  • The Special Stages in Sonic CD are set on islands on other planets, each with a different color ocean.

Web Original
  • Obligatory Homestuck examples - the various Lands feature rivers and seas made of things like magma, oil, blood, paint, and tea.

Western Animation
  • Pirates Of Darkwater had the beautiful, bizarre, and geologically unstable alien water-world of Mer.

Real Life
  • Saturn's moon Titan has seas composed of a mix of ethane and liquid methane rather than water, and reflect the orange-brown sky. Needless to say, it is not an environment that would be well suited for human life.
  • Earth can give the impression of not being itself in places, too:
    • Lake Tahoe is noted for its unusual color. The water appears to change from gold to green to blue to purple depending on the depth.
    • Similarly, Emerald Bay.
    • The Laguna Colorada in Bolivia is a red lake. No, really.
    • There is also the Lake Retba or Lac Rose in Senegal and this lake is pink. The color is caused by strange bacteria and, oddly, salt content.
Community Feedback Replies: 48
  • October 28, 2011
    Generality
    In Spore natural seas can be blue, green or red.
  • October 28, 2011
    wanderlustwarrior
  • October 28, 2011
    DragonQuestZ
    The picture shows more the alien sky than sea.
  • October 28, 2011
    Psychobabble6
    ^ Would something more along these lines work?

    That is by far one of the funnest image searches I've ever done. Also, it led me to these lovely tidbits of information:

    Real Life
    • The Laguna Colorada in Bolivia is a red lake. No, really.
    • There is also the Lake Retba or Lac Rose in Senegal and this lake is pink. The color is caused by strange bacteria and, oddly, salt content.
  • October 29, 2011
    Arivne
    Tabletop RPG
    • Call Of Cthulhu
      • Campaign The Fungi from Yuggoth, adventure "Halls of Celaeno". The fourth planet of the star Celaeno (in the Pleaides) has a grey ocean.
      • Fragments of Fear (second Cthulhu Companion), adventure "Valley of the Four Shrines". The PCs can use a Crystal Ball-like device to view the gray Lake of Hali where Hastur the Unspeakable lives (a planet circling the star Aldebaran).
    • Dungeons And Dragons
      • Adventure Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits. One of the alternate worlds the PCs can visit from Lolth's Web is a planet with a pink ocean.
  • October 29, 2011
    fulltimeD
    In a scene in Star Trek Deep Space Nine various characters compare the tint of the oceans on their homeworlds: Earth's are blue. Bajor's are green. Trill's are purple.
  • October 29, 2011
    fulltimeD
    Western Animation: Pirates Of Darkwater had the beautiful, bizarre, and geologically unstable alien water-world of Mer.
  • October 29, 2011
    dalek955
    Actually, funny-colored water that's bad for humans would probably be Grimy Water. See also Lava Is Boiling Koolaid and Sand Is Water for other types of strange oceans.
  • October 29, 2011
    GuesssWho
    ^Not always. Sometimes it's just a sea that isn't water. Plus, that's pretty much a video game trope.
  • October 29, 2011
    FrodoGoofballCoTV
    Literature:

    Real Life
  • October 29, 2011
    ZombieAladdin
    Video Games: The Special Stages in Sonic CD are set on islands on other planets, each with a different color ocean.
  • October 30, 2011
    PaulA
    • The Doctor Who story "Mindwarp" opens with the TARDIS landing on the beach on a planet where the ocean is bright pink.
  • November 10, 2011
    pcw2727
    Title should probably mention that the color of the ocean is usually a reflection of the sky. This would make it extra dubious if the two are radically different colors.
  • January 9, 2012
    Noaqiyeum
  • January 9, 2012
    Noaqiyeum
    Do oceans that have an 'edge' count?
  • January 9, 2012
    Koveras
    Perelandra wasn't the first book of The Space Trilogy to feature alien seas. The seas on Malacandra in Out of the Silent Planet have a peculiar quality of having very pointy standing waves.
  • January 11, 2012
    Noaqiyeum
    ...I remember, somewhere, a world with oceans of mercury. But I don't remember the context.
  • January 11, 2012
    TBTabby
    In Populous, four of the terrains have differently-colored substances that function the same as water in the others: Rock & Lava has red lava, Bit Plaius has floating letters spelling BULLFROG, Cake Land has caramel, and Silly Land has a checkerboard pattern.
  • January 11, 2012
    Noaqiyeum
    Obligatory Homestuck examples - the various Lands feature rivers and seas made of things like magma, oil, blood, paint, and tea.

    A few more from the Myst games, as well.
    • Multiple Ages - Spire, Relto, and Kadish Tolesa among them - have a 'sea' consisting of a thick layer of fog.
    • The 37th Age has a sea filled with 'dark currents'; when the seawater mixes with the freshwater that flows from the rivers of the one charted island, it releases a thick mist which the inhabitants worship as The Whiteness.
    • Torus' twin "seas" are connected through the hole in the centre of the ring; driven by a force of unknown origin, the water on one side drains through an enormous whirlpool and into an enormous fountain on the other, where it gushes into the upper atmosphere, evaporates, breezes to the 'edge' of the ring, and condenses and falls as rain.
    • The enormous lake surrounding Ae'gura was filled with algae that caused it to luminesce for 3/5 of the day.
  • January 11, 2012
    MiinU
    Are fantasy examples allowed? Or is this strictly sci-fi only?
  • January 12, 2012
    MrInitialMan
    The Amoebic Sea from Alien Planet
  • January 12, 2012
    AP
    • The book Solaris depicts a strange planet completely covered by a multicolored sea. There were two film versions of the book which also contained this sea.
  • January 12, 2012
    Noaqiyeum
    ^^ Well, Myst is fantasy, if of a sort that ranks relatively high on Mohs Scale Of Sci Fi Hardness...
  • September 24, 2012
    Noaqiyeum
    (Questionable page image is here.)
  • September 24, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ That fits Alien Sky better, as the focus is on that, and the sea itself is too dark to make out.
  • September 24, 2012
    Noaqiyeum
    It was originally in the draft; I removed it for that reason, but preserved it for the sake of a record.
  • September 24, 2012
    aurora369
    Real Life: the seas/lakes of liquid methane on Titan, the moon of Saturn. They are orange-brown, reflecting the local sky.
  • September 24, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ If they have any pictures of that, it would make an awesome page picture.
  • September 24, 2012
    JonnyB
    The oceans of Namek in Dragon Ball are green (and the vegetation is blue).
  • September 25, 2012
    aurora369
    ^^If you want a horizontal photo from the shore, only simulations are available. Genuine Cassini-Huygens photos show these bodies of methane only from up high. Some simulated images can be found here http://ircamera.as.arizona.edu/NatSci102/NatSci102/lectures/moonsandrings.htm
  • September 25, 2012
    Noaqiyeum
    ^ I rather like this simulated image. It avoids a problem some of the other images have where it looks possible that it's just an ordinary sea photographed in unusual lighting conditions (sunset, etc).

    I think the link for Age 233 works well, too, actually, I think.
  • September 25, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ Either one of those works.
  • September 26, 2012
    Noaqiyeum
    (Image caption: No Lifeguard On Duty - Not Safe For Swimming)
  • September 26, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ Unless life forms native to that can swim in it fine.
  • September 26, 2012
    Noaqiyeum
    There are no known native life forms... and that kind of ruins the joke. :P

    Is there anything else that needs work, or am I just waiting for hats?
  • September 26, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ The joke doesn't really fit the context anyway. "alien"=/="unsafe no matter what"
  • September 26, 2012
    Noaqiyeum
    Fair enough.

    I don't think we're on the Atlantic any more (?)
  • September 26, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ Almost works. What's a well-known body of water that would fit more naturally into that sentence?
  • September 26, 2012
    KingZeal
    The picture is a bit confusing. It looks like Earth under a really strong sunset.
  • September 26, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ You can see the full picture a few replies up, but I agree it doesn't scale that well.
  • September 26, 2012
    Noaqiyeum
    I was afraid it would look like a sunset. ._.

    Here are some other options I could find:

    (I searched for some of the other examples cited but couldn't find any good images, which surprised me.)
  • September 26, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ If it's on Earth, and not due to an alien cause, would it not be an example?
  • September 26, 2012
    Noaqiyeum
    I wouldn't think so - it's basically the same as the fictional examples in which the water is massively populated by microorganisms (Alien Planet and Riven). The Real Life section also serves the function of something of a worldbuilder's resource, demonstrating the extent to which the trope is grounded in reality, offering possible explanations for unexplained examples in fiction, and providing ideas for one's own work.
  • September 26, 2012
    SharleeD
    • One passing reference in the Dragaera series reveals that the ocean is orange, although it's unclear if this applies to the whole thing or just the portion that's blanketed by the Overcast.
  • September 27, 2012
    Noaqiyeum
    Added.

    ...is no one going to provide further commentary on the page image ideas?
  • September 27, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    ^ Not sure about most of those choices. A lot of those look like places that could be on Earth (even though those count as examples), and others don't look like they would scale well.
  • September 27, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    Oh, and these often include a Waterfall Into The Abyss.
  • September 27, 2012
    Noaqiyeum
    YAY A FIFTH HAT FINALLY

    ...I think I'll actually just use either the red waves or the pink lake for now. They're sufficiently illustrative of the concept, and scaling is a problem for most of the other images. (Otherwise, I'd use the Amoebic Sea, if I were confident that it wouldn't be mistaken for a desert.) If it causes problems, it'll be a job for Image Picking. :P

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