The ocean supports all living organisms: fish in the sea, birds in the sky, and animals and humans on land. It regulates climates and our weather, including tsunamis, the killer waves caused by earthquakes on the ocean floor and undersea volcanic eruptions. We use products derived from sea life every day, ranging from kelp in shampoo to algae in ice cream and seaweed in toothpaste and peanut butter. Marine plants provide most of the oxygen that we breathe, and fish and wild seafood are viable options to eradicate famine—if we protect and sustainably manage our ocean and its ecosystems. Below are some interesting facts about our oceans.
The Earth Has Various Land Masses, But One Big Ocean.
This vast body of water is geographically divided into five distinctly named bodies, with their boundaries evolving over time: the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, Arctic Ocean, and Southern Ocean (or Antarctic Ocean). There are also multiple ocean basins: North Atlantic, South Atlantic, North Pacific, South Pacific, Indian, Southern, and Arctic—and, yes, they’re all connected. To put it into perspective, the gray whale makes the longest migration of any mammal on Earth, with one setting a record by covering a distance of 22,000 kilometers (13,670 miles) across the ocean—more than half of our planet’s circumference.
The Pacific Ocean Is The Largest And Deepest Of The Earth’s Oceanic Divisions
Its area is judged to be between 165.2 to 181.3 million square kilometers (63.8 to 70 million square miles)—which is twice the area of the second largest Atlantic Ocean and greater than Earth’s total land area. The Earth’s moon has roughly the same volume as the Pacific Ocean. It’s also home to the Mariana Trench, the deepest known point on Earth. Mount Everest would fit into this crescent-shaped canyon, with more than a mile to spare!
95% Of The Ocean Is Largely Unexplored
To date, we’ve explored less than five percent of the ocean. The remaining 95 percent is still a mystery, unseen by the human eye. More people have visited the dark side of the moon than dived into the abyss that is the Mariana Trench. We also have a better map of Mars and Venus than of the ocean floor.
Southern Ocean As The Fifth Ocean
Historically, there were four named oceans: the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, and Arctic. The boundaries of the Southern were first proposed to the International Hydrographic Organization in 2000. Most countries now recognize the Southern as the fifth ocean. However, not all countries agree on its proposed boundaries.
More Than 90% Of Trade Is Conducted Over The Seas
Maritime shipping is essential to the world’s economy, with the ocean serving as a super-highway for global trade and communications. Using ships for trading between countries is the most cost-effective means of moving goods across the Earth. Shipping traffic is also one of the human activities that has an adverse impact on the ocean’s biodiversity and marine life.
The Earth’s Tallest Mountain is Mauna Kea, But More Than Half Lies Beneath The Ocean
A dormant volcano in Hawaii, Mauna Kea measures 10,210 meters (or 33,500 feet) from its watery base on the Pacific floor to its summit. Compare that to Mount Everest’s 8,848 meters (29,029 feet) above sea level.
The Earth Has An Eighth Continent
Researchers recently confirmed the existence of Zealandia, a giant landmass almost entirely submerged in the southwest Pacific. One of its highest mountains is—you guessed it—New Zealand. The other 94 percent is currently underwater. Covering 4.9 million square kilometers (1.9 million square miles), it’s larger than the Indian subcontinent!
The World’s Largest Mountain Range Is Underwater
Stretching an impressive 65,000 kilometers (40,390 miles) long, the Mid-Oceanic Ridge is an extensive chain of mountains running across the Atlantic and into the Pacific and Indian oceans. It accounts for nearly 25 percent of the Earth’s total surface! Divers didn’t explore the Mid-Oceanic Ridge until 1973—four years after the first human walked on the moon.
The Ocean Is A Living And Breathing Museum
Home to more than one million known species of animals and plants, scientists say there may be as many as two million species that remain a complete mystery. From the pink see-through fantasia (a deep-sea cucumber) and leafy seadragon to the glowing octopus and aptly-named blobfish, the ocean houses a cornucopia of organisms that date back to prehistoric times. And let’s not forget about the artifacts from shipwrecks over centuries!
Oceans Make Up 99% Of The Earth’s Habitable Space
Which means it’s the largest space in our universe known to be inhabited by living organisms. The world’s largest biological structure is found in the ocean: Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Looking at the Earth from space, the abundance of turquoise makes it clear we live on a water planet. Ours is the only planet in this solar system to have an ocean.
94% Of Life On Earth Is Aquatic
Yet two-thirds of all marine organisms remain undiscovered. Hundreds of thousands of new underwater species are being identified every year. At the same time, many animals are becoming extinct due to acidification, climate change, and pollution—even before being discovered.
Oceans Contain 97% Of The Earth’s Water Supply
Two to three percent is contained in glaciers and ice caps. Less than one percent of this supply is fresh water. In fact, if the ocean’s total salt content were dried, it would cover all the Earth’s land to a depth of five feet.
Three Times As Much Garbage Is Dumped Into The Ocean As the Weight Of Fish Caught Every Year
That’s a staggering figure, considering we catch more than 80 million tons of fish annually. As a collective population, humans are throwing an equivalent of one garbage truck of waste—including plastic bags and soda bottles—into the ocean every minute, posing serious threats to marine life and human health and safety. A report from 2016 warns that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050—unless we clean up our act. The estimate for the amount of plastic in the ocean by mid-century is a whopping 950 million tons.
The Ocean Has Lakes and Rivers
Salt in seawater dissolves to form depressions in the ocean floor. It also makes the water in the area denser, so that it settles into the depressions. These underwater lakes and rivers (also referred to as brine pools) have shorelines, and even waves, like their land counterparts.
The Ocean Also Has Waterfalls
The Earth’s largest waterfall is located underwater between Greenland and Iceland. The Denmark Strait cataract (or Greenland Pump) drops an astounding 3,505 meters (11,500 feet), three times the height of Angel Falls in Venezuela. Six million cubic feet of water goes over Niagara Falls every minute. The Denmark Strait cataract carries 175 million cubic feet of water per second. That’s equal to 2,000 Niagaras at peak flow.