Oceans of the World
Far from being an obstacle, the ocean is a highway for goods and people. Just as we have split up all the land on Earth into regions, and named those regions accordingly, so we have done with the ocean. Though planet Earth technically has just one large, globe-spanning World Ocean, humankind has divided it up into areas using a set of criteria, such as the continents each area borders. Note that these divisions can overlap and encompass other divisions-for instance, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea are both part of the Atlantic.
The largest of these is the Pacific Ocean. Named for the Portugese word for 'peaceful', it covers 46% percent of the Earth's surface and actually has more surface area than all the land on Earth combined. The Pacific has the Americas on its Eastern bank and Asia and Australia to the West.
It brags the deepest known point in the world-the Mariana Trench, as well as other famous marine landmarks, like the Great Barrier Reef. The Pacific houses thousands of islands, including Hawaii and the Philippines. Many of these were first colonized by the Polynesian people thousands of years ago. The positions of many rich countries, such as the United States, China, and Japan, on the Pacific make it one of the busiest oceans for trade.
The Atlantic Ocean is the body of water between the Americas, Europe, and Africa. It is the second largest ocean in the world and also the saltiest. It has had multiple names over the centuries, including the 'Aethiopian Ocean', but the oldest known mentions of it are by the ancient Greeks, who considered it to be the ocean which surrounds the whole world. The northernmost reaches of the Atlantic can host icebergs in the winter-this is where the Titanic sank. The Atlantic was the ocean which Columbus traveled on his exploratory voyages to the New World.
The third largest ocean is the Indian Ocean. It borders India to the north, Africa to the west, and Australia and Indonesia to the east. This ocean was the site of the oldest seaborne trade in history in 2500 BC, between Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) and the Indus Valley Civilization (modern-day Pakistan.) In the modern day it is also used for maritime trade, especially since the Suez Canal, built in 1869 in Egypt, connected the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea-which flows into the Indian Ocean.
The last two oceans are the smallest, coldest, and furthest apart-they are the Arctic Ocean in the north, and the Southern Ocean in the south. Despite seeming similar, they are actually very different. The Arctic Ocean borders Russia and Canada. This is where polar bears live. The Southern Ocean surrounds Antarctica, where penguins live. Both oceans are prone to be completely covered with pack ice in the winter, so one can walk on them.
Regardless of the subdivisions and the differences between these oceans, the reality is that they are part of a shared ecosystem. Water doesn't obey boundaries and the strong currents which carry our trade ships also mix the oceans freely. It is important that we recognize that if we do not take care of our little portion of the World Ocean, we neglect all of it.
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