4: Landscape (sketch)

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Landscape (sketch)
Original title: Landscape
There's a river flowing through the oceanOriginal caption: Don't ask me why there's a river running through the ocean. Please.
Title text: There's a river flowing through the ocean

Original caption: Don't ask me why there's a river running through the ocean. Please.


This was the second comic originally posted to LiveJournal. The previous one was 7: Girl sleeping (Sketch -- 11th grade Spanish class), and the next one was 3: Island (sketch). It was among the first thirteen comics posted to LiveJournal within 12 minutes on September 30, 2005, on the first day of the xkcd LiveJournal account.

Flipped sketch

This comic does not present a particular point, it's just a picture drawn by Randall. The sketch, when flipped vertically, maintains the appearance of having the sea on the bottom and sky on top, although the setting sun is on the wrong part of the horizon. Similar to works of M. C. Escher, this picture takes visual components of a typical scene and combines then in ways that appear to work well on a small scale, but would never combine that way in real life and do not make sense in the larger context of the image. The clouds are casting shadows on the sky.

In the title text, Randall jokes that there is a river flowing through the ocean. The lighter part in the center of the drawing appears to be the Sun's reflection off a body of water, thus indicating that this feature is ocean, yet the forked and meandering line features to the left look like a river system flowing through the very same landscape. The similar but more singular line to the right could be coastline, one side water, the other land but, because of the conflicting interpretations, it doesn't make much sense to identify the central/foreground surface as either land or sea.


[A sketch of a landscape with sun on the horizon.]
[There is text from the checkered paper at the top:]
From Page No.__

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Interesting... when I first saw this sketch years ago, I assumed that the body of water was frozen and the "river" was a crack in the ice. -- mwburden 22:41, 13 December 2012 (UTC)

More likely the dark areas are the watery areas. That would explain the original comment: people asking "why the river?" were only making it too clear to Randall how he missed to convey what he meant. The confusion largely comes from the land being completely flat. 18:27, 30 September 2013 (UTC)

Since he's changed the title text to say that the river is running through the ocean, you seem to be incorrect. Grahame (talk) 06:26, 18 October 2013 (UTC)Grahame

However, a river is made of fresh water and the sea is made of salt water. The Amazon river entering the ocean is an example.

Besides, some sea currents are called rivers. --Chvsanchez (talk) 23:54, 1 March 2014 (UTC)

I would like to point at that if you look to the left of the sunset(sunrise?) you can notice the dark branching lines that much resemble the rivers on a globe or map. --Para (talk) 20:32, 5 March 2014 (UTC)

There's an impossible figure since the rivers/cracks on the left-hand side imply that the light surface is solid, while the dark area on the right-hand side implies that the light surface is liquid (reinforced by sunset reflected on the water, and the ocean in the title). Nathan Hillery (talk) 15:09, 21 June 2014 (UTC)

With the sun directly on the horizon, the ocean wave tops will reflect the colour of the rising/setting sun. The stretch of ocean between the observer and the sun appears to be preferentially illuminated. The rest of the ocean appears to be relatively darker. The illuminated ocean doesn't have sharp boundaries. Variations in wave action, wind direction and current give shape and texture to the illuminated area. The net effect can be described as a 'river of light' on the ocean or "a river flowing through the ocean." --DP9000 (talk) 01:09, 16 February 2016 (UTC)

Should this be added towards Category:Comics with color? --Lupo (talk) 14:52, 26 September 2019 (UTC)

I don't think the coloured stuff counts as part of the comic, it was very likely already on the paper when he bought it. Also: "to", not "towards". Fabian42 (talk) 17:53, 26 September 2019 (UTC)
Yes the color comes from the Checkered paper which is already added as a category. The sketch is B/W and the text at the top is part of the paper. So no it should no be added to the color category :-) --Kynde (talk) 20:51, 10 October 2019 (UTC)

"The clouds are casting shadows on the sky." They do that in real life, they are called 'god rays'. Although more specifically, they shade particles in the air from sunlight that would otherwise be reflected down to the surface. 14:17, 4 October 2020 (UTC)

i think those are floating islands and not shadows, and that the "river in the ocean" is just that it's some islands in the sea (and yes i like islands) An user who has no account yet (talk) 21:19, 10 September 2023 (UTC)