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Photos: 'The place where 2 oceans meet' in the Gulf of Alaska

Boundary between coastal waters influenced by glacial weathering (light blue) and offshore waters of the Gulf of Alaska (darker blue).
Ken Bruland photo
Photographer Kent Smith snapped this photo of glacial waters from Alaska rivers merging with the darker blue waters of the Gulf of Alaska while on a cruise on July 10, 2010.
Kent Smith photo
Alaska Dispatch

A picture from the Gulf of Alaska that has been making the rounds on the Internet for the last few years -- though particularly in recent weeks -- shows a strange natural phenomenon that occurs when heavy, sediment-laden water from glacial valleys and rivers pours into the open ocean. There in the gulf, the two types of water run into each other, a light, almost electric blue merging with a darker slate-blue.

Informally dubbed “the place where two oceans meet,” the explanation for the photo is a simple one, though there are many misconceptions about it, including that catchy title. In particular on popular link-sharing website Reddit, where users have on multiple occasions erroneously attributed the photo’s location as “Where the Baltic and North Sea meet” and the two types of water as being completely incapable of ever mixing, instead perpetually butting against each other like a boundary on a map.

You also may have seen a variation on the photo featuring the same phenomenon, taken by photographer Kent Smith while on a July 2010 cruise in the Gulf of Alaska. That photo too has been circulating the web for some time, though the misconceptions about it seem to be fewer thanks to Smith's explanation of the photo on his Flickr page. That one has also been making the rounds on Reddit and social media for years, and had racked up more than 860,000 views by early 2013 on that one page alone, Smith said.

That original photo, however, originates from a 2007 research cruise of oceanographers studying the role that iron plays in the Gulf of Alaska, and how that iron reaches certain areas in the northern Pacific.

READ MORE: Mythbusting "The place where two oceans meet" in the Gulf of Alaska"