Do we have more than one ocean? If you look at a map, you’ll quickly see that no hard boundaries separate the oceans. Unlike some international and national boundaries noted by geographical features, oceans are separated in a somewhat arbitrary way. Water is free-flowing. It’s not like the water molecules of the Indian ocean are bound to the Indian ocean. So what is the deal with all these oceans and why can’t they just be one big one?
It turns out, the reason for having different oceans is primarily practical. We have sectioned off these bodies of water mostly so we can reference them easier. It began with cartographers (map-makers, not people who photograph shopping carts.) People have an intrinsic need to label things in order to classify them and create a common point of reference that everyone will be able to understand. Naming the oceans is a solution that doesn’t require people to use latitude and longitude every time they want to refer to a general area of the ocean.
Nowadays there are five different oceans that you’ll commonly see on a map. There’s the Indian Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, the Arctic Ocean, and the Southern or Antarctic Ocean. The Arctic and Southern Oceans are the bread of this ocean sandwich. They are located at the north and south poles of the world and are the two smallest oceans.
Next is the Indian Ocean that resides in the gulf that borders East Africa, Southern Asia, and Oceania. It covers about 15% of the earth’s surface and is the warmest ocean.
The next largest ocean is the Atlantic, which covers just over 20% of the earth’s surface and borders the Eastern Americas, Europe, and West Africa. It is considered the saltiest ocean on earth and also the youngest. It is currently growing between one and two inches per year.
The last ocean on the list is certainly not the least, in fact, quite the opposite. The Pacific Ocean is the largest ocean on the planet and covers a bit over 30% of the earth’s surface. It’s shrinking by a couple of centimeters each year, but it will be a long time before it loses its status as the biggest ocean around.
All of earth’s oceans feed into one another and together they make a single body of water, but each still manages to have key distinguishing factors. Find out more about them to enjoy the natural wonders this world has to offer.