The Ocean: Information, Facts, and More!

Written By: Frank Bongiorno

The ocean is a vast expanse of water that surrounds the seven continents of Earth and enables the existence of life on our planet. Covering more than 70% of the surface area of Earth, the ocean circulates thermal gradients between continents, provides a source of water to evaporate and fill the clouds so that it can rain elsewhere, and absorbs carbon dioxide from the environment. Mariners have explored the ocean since the beginning of modern civilization, circumnavigating the globe by boat and venturing to the deepest depths of the ocean. Even in modern times, explorers continue to discover new types of animals and plants in the ocean's waters, and scientists are identifying complex ocean-related problems to solve.

Pacific Ocean

The Pacific Ocean is the largest ocean on Earth, spanning more than 63 million square miles. Located in the Western Hemisphere, the Pacific Ocean extends from Asia to the Americas. Ferdinand Magellan, a Spanish explorer, led the first crew to cross the Pacific Ocean and circumnavigate the globe in 1521. Although he named the ocean "Pacifico," or "peaceful," the Pacific Ocean is home to the Ring of Fire, a system of active volcanoes that surrounds the northern Pacific. In addition, the Mariana Trench, the deepest place in any of the world's oceans, is situated in the Pacific Ocean.

Atlantic Ocean

The Atlantic Ocean is the second largest ocean on Earth, covering more than 42 million square miles. Extending from the Americas to Europe and Africa, the Atlantic Ocean is frequently crossed for trade and leisure. In the colder northern Atlantic, ocean temperatures can fall to as low as 32°F, leading to the formation of icebergs. Indeed, the Titanic after striking an iceberg in the northern Atlantic Ocean. In addition, strong temperature gradients and wind speeds in the equatorial regions of the Atlantic can lead to the formation of tropical cyclones and hurricanes along the North American coastline and the Caribbean islands.

Indian Ocean

The Indian Ocean is the third largest ocean, extending over 27 million square miles of Earth's surface between Africa and Asia. Explorers such as Christopher Columbus and Vasco da Gama exported spices from India and China to Europe via the northern Indian Ocean. Warm temperatures in the Indian Ocean cause large amounts of water to evaporate into the clouds. As a result, heavy rains, called monsoons, fall on the Indian subcontinent and parts of Asia, allowing crops that require large amounts of water, such as rice, to grow. The Indian Ocean is very biodiverse, with many endangered species, such as sea lions, whales, dolphins, and sea turtles, taking refuge in its waters.

Arctic Ocean

The Arctic Ocean is the smallest ocean on Earth, covering only 4.3% of the total surface area of Earth's oceans. Surrounding the North Pole, the Arctic Ocean is very cold, maintaining surface temperatures below 32°F for much of the year. As with every ocean, the Arctic Ocean has five layers. The first layer is the epipelagic layer, extending from the surface to 600 feet below the surface. The second layer is the mesopelagic layer, extending from 600 feet below the surface to 3,000 feet. The third layer is the bathypelagic layer, reaching from 3,000 feet to 12,000 feet below the surface. Extending from 12,000 feet to 18,000 feet below the ocean surface, the fourth layer is known as the abyssopelagic layer. Finally, the lowest layer, the hadal layer, reaches from 18,000 feet to the ocean floor.

Southern Ocean

The Southern Ocean is the water mass that surrounds Antarctica. The boundary between the Southern Ocean and the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian oceans is still debated by scientists and policymakers. Many explorers have tried to cross the ice-laden Southern Ocean to reach Antarctica, but only in 1972 did explorer David Lewis complete a solo trip through the Southern Ocean to the Antarctic coastline. Above Antarctica, the atmosphere that protects Earth from dangerous solar radiation is thinner than it is in other parts of the world, so the Southern Ocean is exposed to more high-energy ultraviolet rays. This can harm phytoplankton, important marine organisms that form the foundation of the aquatic food chain and help to pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.


Fishing is an important source of income for many people around the world. Commercial fishers use many types of boats, such as trawlers, seiners, line vessels, and dredgers. Trawlers and seiners are fishing boats designed to carry large nets for catching fish at the ocean's surface, at mid-depth in the ocean, or on the ocean floor. Line vessels are fishing vessels equipped with rugged fishing lines carrying thousands of hooks for catching fish, while dredgers are fishing boats with devices that catch mollusks and fish on the ocean floor. Often, commercial fishing ships venture far away from the coastline. In order to withstand ocean waves and possible storm conditions, these vessels are often at least 30 feet long, although modern commercial fishing vessels can reach more than 300 feet in length.

Fun Facts About the Ocean

The ocean is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth, with many types of bacteria, archaea, algae, plants, and fungi inhabiting its waters along with fish and shellfish. The ocean absorbs light from the sun at different rates. Blue light is absorbed slowly, reaching hundreds of feet below the ocean surface, while red light is absorbed quickly at the surface of the ocean. The ocean also absorbs gases, such as carbon dioxide, thereby helping to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The ocean absorbs more carbon dioxide at colder temperatures than at warmer temperatures. And ocean currents help to moderate Earth's temperature by moving warm air from the equator and driving precipitation to coastal areas.

Ocean Games and Activities