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The line of the spell in question says:

You destroy up to 10 gallons of water in an open container within range.

Range is 30 ft.

I am on a raft. 20 ft below me (and to the north) is a shark. I target the water just below the shark, destroying 10 gallons of water in an open container (the sea).

What happens?

  1. The spell destroys the water, instantly as per duration, and the nearby water rushes in, doing nothing more than possibly confusing the shark.
  2. The water is instantly destroyed, creating a vacuum. As the water rushes in, the change in pressure does say 2d8 (like Thunderwave) to all within say 5 ft of my target location.
  3. The water is destroyed, turning into a bubble of oxygen and hydrogen, which rises up and buffets the shark. He considers it difficult terrain for 1 round.
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  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! Take the tour. An interesting question that may receive some pushback due to its core assumption that the sea's an open container. This question may want to address this directly instead — that is Is the sea an open container? — rather than trying to get answers that will pick one of listed options. (In fact, I've found providing options usually a bad idea: folks often go with an option that wasn't proposed!) Anyway, thank you for participating and have fun! \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 10 '18 at 17:35
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The most likely outcome is:

  • Create and Destroy Water fails because the ocean is not an "open container".

If anything, the planet's crust is the ocean's container, but even that is a very permissive interpretation.

However, if the DM is permissive and lets the spell work then:

  • You destroy 10 gallons of water, but the shark is not impacted in a significant way.

Remember, spells only do what they say they do: Create and Destroy Water doesn't state or imply that it is inherently dangerous or harmful, so it isn't.

Moreover, about the instantenous duration the PHB states:

Many spells are instantaneous. The spell harms, heals, creates, or alters a creature or an object in a way that can’t be dispelled, because its magic exists only for an instant.

Therefore, Create and Destroy Water's instantaneous duration is an indication that it can't be dispelled because the magic only exists for an instant. It is not an indication that the water is destroyed in 0.001 microseconds to create vacuums or other such effects.


Addendum:
As a D&D game term, "instantaneous" is just an abstraction. Create and Destroy Water can make rain fall, but how could rain literally fall instantaneously? Examples like these can be seen in most other instantaneous spells.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ might also note the 10 gallons is 1 1/3 cubic feet, roughly the volume of an adults chest cavity. thus damage from rushing water would be very limited in application. \$\endgroup\$ – ravery Jun 10 '18 at 18:31
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4) Nothing happens

The sea isn’t a container, and thus the spell fails.

The sea is as open, wild and as uncontained as you can get.

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