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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 
  • 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 
  • The flying pirate ship in Peter Pan definitely evokes this.

    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.
  • 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.

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

    Tabletop Games 
  • There's currently an RPG in development known as Upwind. It's conceptualized as being a cross between "Treasure Planet" and "Studio Ghibli". Uncharacteristic for most RPG systems though, the game uses playing cards in place of Dice. Allowing for a more free flowing system.

    Video Games 

  • 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.

    Western Animation 
  • Due to the fact that it's set in a hovering planet, The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello uses this trope heavily. There are flying fish, Sky Pirates and floating islands, and the main characters are aeronauts who use airships to travel through "uncharted air".
  • Skyland
  • TaleSpin eats sleeps and breathes this trope
  • The Pines of Rome segment in Fantasia 2000 takes this to its logical extreme with whales swimming through the air and breaching through the air/stratosphere boundary.
  • 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.

    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.
  • 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.
  • 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


Example of: