Earth: The Ocean Planet

Category: General Article

Seen from space, the Earth is clearly a world of water. Somewhere, amongst all that blue and partially hidden by great swaths of clouds, are the few scattered continents which we humans call home. And although dry land makes up only a fraction of the Earth’s surface, we often forget or overlook the importance of the oceans to our very survival. Put simply, life on Earth exists because of the oceans, not in spite of it.

Five Oceans Or Just One?

Probably you were taught the names of the worlds great ocean in elementary school, right? And although these look like distinct bodies of water, separated by the great continents of the world, they are in fact the same body of water. Each is interconnected, meaning you can travel completely around the world without ever touching dry land. Yes, the Earth truly is an ocean world.

Pacific Ocean. This is the largest part of the world ocean which separates the North and South American continents from Asia. The Pacific Ocean covers 64,000,000 square miles (155,557,00 square km) and is almost twice the size of the next largest part, the Atlantic. The Pacific is also the ocean bordering the Oregon Coast, so the ocean which will be most featured on the Oceanscape Network.

Atlantic Ocean. The second largest part of the world ocean is the Atlantic, and it separates North and South America from Europe and Africa. The Atlantic measures approximately 33,420,000 square miles (76,762,000 square km). Because of its proximity to heavily populated land areas, the Atlantic has been traveled, explored and harvested for tens of thousands of years. This makes it the best understood of the oceans, although plenty of questions still remain about its mysterious depths.

Indian Ocean. Measuring 28,350,000 square miles (68,556,000 square km), the Indian Ocean lies adjacent to the Indian subcontinent and between the east coast of Africa and the western perimeter of Oceania.

Arctic Ocean. This ocean covers the north pole, touching the tops of North America, Asia and Europe. Most of the ocean is contained within the Arctic Circle and parts of it are frozen throughout the year. This is the smallest of the five oceans, measuring 5,000,000 square miles (15,056,000 square km).

Southern Ocean. The Southern Ocean is perhaps the least traveled, least explored and least understood of the five oceans. Measuring only 8,000,000 square miles (20,327,000 square km), it wraps around the southern part of the globe like a belt. Frigid temperatures, violent storms and extreme depths (the deepest on earth – up to 16,000 feet or 5,000 m in some places) make the Southern Ocean one of the most dangerous oceans on Earth!

Related Information: So What’s The Big Deal About Water? | Water On A Cosmic Scale

Photo credit: Royce Blair.

Download: Map of Major Oceans and Seas (PDF)