"Why is the ocean blue? Speculation about the blue color of the ocean, as seen from above, goes way back. Lord Rayleigh claimed it was simply reflection of the blue sky. The correct explanation required combining the 19th-century ideas of Robert Bunsen, who felt that the color depended on light absorption by water, and Jacques-Louis Soret, who felt that the color was entirely due to scattering. C. V. Raman pointed out the importance of molecular scattering, and in 1923 Vasily Shuleikin combined those ideas to develop a complete explanation of the color of the sea."
In Physics Today, Shedding new light on light in the ocean
Tommy D. Dickey, George W. Kattawar, and Kenneth J. Voss
April 2011, http://dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.3580492
Recent advances are making it possible for optical oceanographers to solve a host of pressing environmental problems.