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The Sky Is an Ocean

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Pirates sail the seven... skies?

Sister Trope of Space Is an Ocean. In this case, it's the sky in the atmosphere of a planet or natural satellite being used to make visual/stylistic parallels to the ocean, but the same basic principles apply. As with space, the metaphor can easily be taken a little too far (although the presence of gravity might explain parts of it). Often runs on the Rule of Cool.

May involve:

For more info on the Real Life lumbering battleships and luxury liners that ply the skies, see our Useful Notes on military aircraft and airships. Contrast Water Is Air, Sand Is Water.

Just pray you don't Walk the Plank. It's a long drop.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • The factions in the manga of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind use nautical terms for their aircraft, which are called "ships" and the aircrews are "sailors". The Valley and other Periphery Kingdoms have "gunships", "barges", and "brigs", and the Torumekians use "corvettes". The Doroks have airships called "monitors" and "battleships", and an airplane called a "launch".
  • One Piece takes it literally in the Skypeia arc, where the clouds are considered an ocean. Luffy tests whether it works like in the world below... and yeah, it still gives him Super Drowning Skills.
    • It's explained that the sea and island clouds are created when an element called 'pyrobloin' (ejected from volcanoes into the sky) reacts with water vapor. The type of cloud created depends on the density of the water vapor. The pyrobloin accounts for the Super Drowning Skills effect, since it's found in Seastone which can de-power Devil Fruit users.
  • Simoun, pretty much all of it.
  • In the Ah! My Goddess manga, the Schroedingers swim through the air... but it's mainly in a conceptual space so it might not completely count. Still evokes the trope, though.
  • In an episode of Doraemon, the gadget-of-the-week 'Simulated Water Pump' permits the protagonists to treat air as water and 'dive' in the air, completed with Flying Seafood Special and a ship that sails in the sky (albeit unknowingly, it finally gets stranded on a roof).
  • Last Exile has airships which, due to their otherwise limited technology, fight each other in a manner similar to pre-industrial naval ships. Furthermore, because of the planet's unusual shape, the sky is a literal barrier that has to be crossed to get from one continent to another.
  • Discussed in Trigun: Vash compares the large open sky to "the deep blue sea"... even though he's never seen the sea or even been close to a large water point.

    Comic Books 
  • The CrossGen series Meridian was set in a world of floating islands and airships.

    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live Action 

  • Jules Verne's Robur the Conqueror may well be the Trope Codifier. Not only is the Cool Plane Albatross essentially a ship with propellers instead of sails, but the narration keeps using nautical terminology and phrases like "aerial sea," and the Cool Airship Go Ahead is actually compared with an airborne whale.
  • The Dreamlands of H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos feature boats that float on the sky and can sail to the moon.
  • Airborn has Sky Pirates and an airship that's basically a luxury cruise liner.
  • The Nameless Castle in Xanth sits among the clouds, upon which (magical, one presumes) boats can be floated.
  • In The Integral Trees by Larry Niven, which is set in a thin, orbiting band of breathable air, the sky literally is an ocean, since the one planet in the band has uninhabitably dense air and high gravity.
  • Older Than Television: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 1913 scifi short story "The Horror of the Heights" features an aviator who has a nasty run in with a swarm of flying jellyfish.
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs uses this trope throughout his Martian tales, especially when The Hero is being chased by Sky Pirates. A few of the books also climax with spectacular battles between aerial armadas.
  • Karl Schroeder's "Virga" series takes place inside a Hollow World filled with air, where people, ships, and entire cities float around.
  • In Michael Reaves' The Shattered World, ships sail through the air-filled Abyss between the many fragments of a world broken into pieces. The sky/sea analogy is taken further still when its characters encounter "dragoneers", dragon-hunting equivalents of old-time harpoon whalers.
  • In The Death Gate Cycle, each world is based on an element. Arianus, the World of Air, is exactly this, with elves using magical airships for transport.
  • Jim Butcher's The Cinder Spires has a lot of Magitek powered skyships and aerial combat. The sky is specifically the ocean circa the Anglo-Spanish or Napoleonic Wars, and one of the main characters is privateer.
  • In the Temeraire series, dragon-based aviation forms a branch of the military of many countries during the Napoleonic wars. The associate officers are given naval ranks, like cadet, lieutenant, captain, commodore, and admiral. The main character even used to be a 'naval' captain, until he became an aviator when he got a dragon egg thrown in his lap.
  • Shadow of the Conqueror takes place in a World in the Sky where Magitek skyships put this trope into action, complete with Sky Pirates.
  • In The Edge Chronicles, ships sail in the skies, and there are Sky Pirates.

    Live Action TV 
  • In A Christmas Carol of Doctor Who, the sky above a planet was full of fish (including sharks).

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • The entire point of Skies of Arcadia. Hell, different parts of the sky are actually called "oceans" - you start in Mid Ocean and go out from there.
  • Ecco the Dolphin: The Tides of Time has "the great sea of the sky", which includes floating islands, giant water tubes, dolphins who have evolved helium sacs to float in the air, and GIANT FLYING JELLYFISH.
    • Defender of the Future had huge floating water globes, floating water tubes, and non-floating-but-still-in-the-sky squid.
  • Final Fantasy XII is all over this, complete with fleets, battleships, carriers, and Sky Pirates.
  • Cutscenes in Final Fantasy III show an airship with oars.
  • Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers goes so far as to include a wake of mana in the shape of ocean waves trailing from behind its bigger airships.
  • The airships from Super Mario Bros. 3. In the game Super Mario Galaxy however, Bowser actually upgrades them all so they can fly through outer space.
  • The X game series. Space ships experience severe drag and fly at speeds of 50-400 m/s. Their greatest sensor range is something like 25 m. What they don't know is that they are all not in space but underwater. It's a boron plot, no doubt.
  • In the Arcade Game Sky Adventure, the Final Boss is a flying armored galley with oars.
  • Granblue Fantasy takes place across a series of floating islands, suspended in a balance of power between four angelic Primarchs created by the Astrals.
  • Pirate 101 has this to an odd sort of extreme, in that pretty much any inanimate object that would float on water seems to float on a particular horizontal plane in the air. Despite this, the players flying ship seems to have some sort of altitude control (though it's only ever used during the loading screen between zones). It's also populated by numerous flying sea creatures.
  • The setting of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is this, with Alrest consisting of a few continent sized creatures known as Titans wading and/or swimming through the Cloud Sea, carrying ecosystems and cities on their backs. Though the Cloud Sea isn't actual clouds: just below the fluffy looking surface it has properties closer to water; people can even swim in it.

  • Evus is set in a World in the Sky, so ships and pteroplanes fly through the Midcloud Layer. The Undercloud Layer compares to the dark, unexplored depths of the ocean.

    Web Original 
  • Elements of this trope can be found in Star Wars: Galactic Folklore and Mythology. The Frozians, an race noted for their skill at building airships and zeppelins, are described as having their own so-called 'aerial mythology', which borrows numerous elements from real-world Nautical Folklore. Notable Frozian myths include that of Rainbow Cove (an afterlife for pilots who have served at least seven years, similar to Fiddler's Green), mischievous gremlins (which steal food and cigarettes, and damage parachutes), the sully-gullies (a race of suicidal birds which intentionally fly into propellors, causing aircraft to crash), and the Black Wyvern (a ghostly dirigible forced to sail the skies for all eternity).

    Western Animation 
  • Dragon Tales has a kind pirate whose ships flies in the air.
  • Love, Death & Robots: In the episode "Fish Night", two traveling salesmen come across a large group of ghostly fish and other marine life in the Arizona desert. The creatures all swim through the air as if the place is still the ocean that it once was. One of the men decides to join them, and is somehow also able to swim up into the air.
  • Storm Hawks is set in a world of mountaintop landmasses, called terras, over deadly wastelands. Travel between the terras is by flight. Wildlife includes sky sharks, and the episode "Leviathan" brings in a, well, leviathan.

    Real Life 
  • When the Captain or First Officer of your airliner turns off the "Fasten Seat Belts" signs you may move about the cabin. Flight Attendants were once stewards and stewardesses, and they still serve food and drinks from a galley. Very large airliners have upper and lower decks. Aircraft are kept on course and steered to port or starboard by pilots and one of the control-surfaces they use is the rudder. At take-off and landing, the cabin crew are told to take their stations. The space for luggage is cargo hold where the payload is shipped to the destination, and the place for relieving your internal pressure is head. While airplanes have fuselages, flying boats have hulls. The captain, who sits in the cockpit, will do the navigation and plot the bearing and course for the autopilot.
    • Ooh! Ooh! Airport!
      • Specifically Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix.
      • Port Columbus International Airport in Columbus, Ohio
      • ...where you embark and disembark the passengers.
    • Needless to speak about bulkheads (pro walls), navigation lights (pro flight lights), cockpit (pro control room) and so on. The airspeed is measured in knots - not kilometres or miles per hour, with cruising speed usually being around 450 to 500 kn. The whole aviation terminology derives itself from maritime. The glazed see-through apertures on the fuselage are windows, though - not portholes.
    • The navigation lights are exactly the same as on maritime vessels - red on port wing, green on starboard wing and white at aft. When the engine is on, strobe beacon is lit on both sides of the fuselage (corresponds to the white motoring light of maritime vessels). Actually flying boats, hovercraft, ground effect planes and floatplanes are included in the international maritime navigation light rules.
    • The Right of the Way Rules are exactly the same in the sky as at the sea. Supplied with the rule that the one who has less altitude has the right of the way.
    • Not to mention terms in other languages, such as "embarque" and "desembarque" in both Spanish and Portuguese, used for boarding and unboarding airplanes (as well as busses, subway, train and other transportation).
    • Justified since aviation terminology is based on seafaring terminology since boats came before planes.
    • Until its collapse in 1991, Pan Am Airways referred to it's airliners as Clippers, with each aircraft being individually named in the style of sailing ships, with names such as China Clipper and Clipper Defiance. In the US, Pan Am was originally a Trope Codifier for this trend in civil aviation, with pilots transitioning from leather jackets with silk scarves to uniforms similar to those worn by naval officers.
    • Giving the airplanes individual names (like ships have) instead of just referring them as their radio calls is customary amongst several airlines.
    • A lot of the above is inherited from a time when the two main forms of aviation were airships and seaplanes (planes that land on water). And given that the first few airships also had to land on water, early aviators would have had to have learned nautical terms and practices because during landing and docking their aircraft would be a watercraft.
  • While modern day aircraft my not invoke this trope that much, the airships of the early 20th century most certainly did. Not only were they large and relatively slow moving, but their massive, palatial interiors often wouldn't look out of place on an ocean liner. The Hindenburg, for example, had private passenger staterooms, a bar, promenades, a double Grand Staircase (complete with a bust of Hindenburg himself), a piano lounge, a restaurant, and even an old-fashioned ship's helm used for steering in the Führergondel (what the Germans call a control car, "leader gondola").
  • Alberto Santos Dumont (a Brazilian aircraft scientist) once said "The atmosphere is our ocean.".
    • This reflected the design philosophy of the time. Early semi-aircraft like Santos Dumont's designs had only a rudder for control, and mounted propellers with much the same design as those used by naval craft, as opposed to the 3-axis control and airfoil-shaped propellers pioneered by the Wright Brothers.
  • Some planetary climatologists find it easier to model the oceans as simply a lower, denser region of the atmosphere when considering its role in water cycles and global temperature patterns.
  • Many aviators refer their airplanes simply as ships.
  • In military parlance, heavily armed aircraft such as the AC-130 (a transport aircraft fitted for artillery) or attack helicopters are often called "gunships". The term has nautical origins, dating back to 19th-Century Ironclads.
  • Subverted in naval aviation where the flyers are aviators. That is because the term "pilot" has a distinct maritime meaning.
  • Truth in Television (sort of) for large planets as Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and their extrasolar equivalents where their atmospheres blend smoothly with either oceans of liquid hydrogen (Jupiter, Saturn, and their kind) or exotic forms of a mixture of water, methane, and ammonia (Uranus, Neptune, and alike).
    • The terrestrial planet Venus applies in a sense, the clouds are so thick that possible colonization attempts include airships and floating cities.

Alternative Title(s): Air Is An Ocean


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