in a Name?
The Pacific Ocean was named by legendary navigator Ferdinand Magellan.
A native of Portugal, Magellan renounced his loyalty to that nation
after King Emanuel rejected Magellans petition for a post
within the royal navy. Magellan then left for Spain, which agreed
to support Magellans claim of a western route to the Spice
Islands through a seaway near the southern tip of South America.
On September 20, 1519, Magellan and a crew of 270 men set sail
from Spain on their around-the-world voyage in five small vessels
including his flagship Trinidad, Concepcion, San Antonio,
Victoria, and Santiago. It took the fleet, or at least
the three remaining ships in the fleet, 38 days to navigate the
strait around South America that was to bear Magellans name.
During the last week of November, the fleet emerged into what Magellan
described as a beautiful, peaceful ocean. Thus, it was
named the Pacific Ocean (pacific meaning peaceful.)
Upon entering the Pacific Ocean, Magellan mistakenly thought the
Spice Islands were only a short voyage away. Nearly four months
later, in March 1521, he and his crew finally reached what is known
today as the Philippines. A few weeks later, he was fatally wounded
after becoming involved in a dispute between warring Philippine
tribes. Only one ship, Victoria, and 18 of Magellans
original crew members returned to Spain, thereby completing the
first circumnavigation of the globe. Although Magellans route
proved impractical for the spice trade, his voyage has been called
the greatest single human achievement on the seas.
Pacific Ocean is the largest of the worlds five oceans, followed
by the Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, Southern Ocean, and Arctic
Ocean. It covers an area of about 155 million square kilometers
(about 60 million square miles). It is larger than the total land
area of the world and about 15 times the size of the United States.
average depth is 4,637 meters (2.8 miles). It is home to the deepest
known point in the ocean the Mariana Trench off Guam
which plunges to a depth of about 11,000 meters (nearly 7 miles).
Because of the depth of the Pacific Ocean, tsunamis (waves created
by earthquakes) can reach speeds of 750 kilometers an hour, the
same velocity as a jet airplane.
independent nations are located in the Pacific: Australia, Fiji,
Japan, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, New Zealand,
Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands,
Taiwan, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. The U.S. state of Hawaii is
also located here and several island territories and possessions
of Australia, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, United Kingdom,
and the United States.
largest land mass in this ocean is the continent of Australia, which
is about equal in size to the 48 contiguous states of the United
States.There are some 25,000 islands in the Pacific Ocean —
which is more than the rest of the world's oceans combined. Almost
all the smaller islands lie between 30°N and 30°S latitude,
extending from Southeast Asia to Easter Island. The rest of the
Pacific Basin is almost devoid of land.
ocean and the atmosphere are closely linked — a fact that
is clearly demonstrated by the global weather phenomena we know
as "El Niño" and "La Niña," which
arise in the Pacific Ocean.
ago, Peruvian fishermen named the seasonal warming of the waters
off their coast, which occurs in December, "El Nino,"
which is Spanish for "the Christ child." During a normal
year, the waters off South America are typically cold and highly
productive for fishing. Then in December (which is summer in the
Southern Hemisphere), the water normally warms and fishing becomes
less productive. Cold water usually returns again in June, when
the fishing season begins again there. In some years, however, the
water stays warm throughout the year and can cause dramatic
weather around the world. The term "El Niño" is
now used to refer to this climatic process.
westward-blowing trade winds cause warm water to pile up in the
western Pacific. During El Niño, the trade winds weaken and
cannot "contain" this huge pool of warm water. Consequently,
warm water extends far eastward. In the United States, the effects
of an El Niño winter include warmer than normal temperatures
from the Great Lakes to Alaska, wetter than normal conditions across
the southern tier of states, some dryness in the Midwest, and cooler
than normal temperatures in the Southeast. It can also include a
decrease in hurricanes that reach land.
some ways, La Niña is the opposite of El Niño and
is characterized by cooler than normal ocean water surface temperatures
in the central tropical Pacific. In the United States, a La Niña
winter includes temperatures that are cooler than normal over the
Northwest, warmer than normal over the Southeast, drier than normal
from Florida to Arizona, and wetter than normal over the Pacific
Northwest and parts of the Midwest. La Niña may also bring
an increase in hurricanes that reach land in the United States.
ocean floor in the eastern Pacific is dominated by the East Pacific
Rise, which is a part of the worldwide Mid-Ocean Ridge system. About
3,000 km (1,800 mi) across, the rise stands about 3 km (2 mi) above
the adjacent ocean floor. The western part of the Pacific Ocean
floor consists of mountain arcs that rise above the sea as island
groups, such as the Solomon Islands and New Zealand, and deep trenches,
such as the Mariana Trench, the Philippine Trench, and the Tonga
Trench. Most of the deep trenches lie adjacent to the outer margins
of the wide western Pacific continental shelf.
of the Pacific Oceans greatest assets is fish, including herring,
salmon, sardines, snapper, swordfish, tuna, and shellfish. In 1996,
over half (60%) of the worlds total fish catch came from the
Pacific Ocean. Pearls also are harvested along Australia, Japan,
Papua New Guinea, Nicaragua, Panama, and the Philippines. Oil and
gas, polymetallic nodules, and sand and gravel are currently among
its most important mineral resources.
oceans endangered marine species include the dugong, sea lion,
sea otter, seals, turtles, and whales. Current major environmental
issues include oil pollution in the Philippine Sea and South China
Sea. In terms of natural hazards, it is surrounded by a zone of
violent volcanic and earthquake activity (The Ring of Fire).
Hurricanes may form south of Mexico and strike Central America and
Mexico from June to October. The
greatest typhoon frequency exists within the triangle from southern
Japan to the central Philippines to eastern Micronesia.
Bangkok (Thailand), Hong Kong, Kao-hsiung (Taiwan), Los Angeles
(U.S.), Manila (Philippines), Pusan (South Korea), San Francisco
(U.S.), Seattle (U.S.), Shanghai (China), Singapore, Sydney (Australia),
Vladivostok (Russia), Wellington (New Zealand), Yokohama (Japan).