What is an ocean?
As your class is discovering the Pacific, it would be excellent to explain exactly what an ocean is. Oceans are large bodies of salt water that cover much of the Earth. The combination of oceans amounts to 71% of our world. This is an unbelievably large amount. You can explain to your class that if you count all the countries, continents, and islands, there is more than double the amount of ocean.
This means that the ocean is a fascinating part of the world with so much to learn and discover. There are about 352 quintillion gallons of water in the oceans. In other words, it is 352 billion gallons.
There are seven oceans in total. These are below:
- The Arctic – At the top of the Earth, surrounding the North Pole.
- The North Atlantic – Largely between North America and Western Europe.
- The South Atlantic – The water between Latin America and Western Africa.
- The North Pacific – On the western side of North America and East Asia.
- The South Pacific – Between the eastern side of Australia and South America.
- India – Surrounded by Western Australia, East Africa, and India.
- The Southern – Covering the Antarctic continent.
Many people believe the Mediterranean is also an ocean. However, that is a basin of water connected to the Atlantic. The water from the Mediterranean comes through the Strait of Gibraltar, a 36-mile stretch of water between Spain and Morocco.
While humans have visited most stretches of land, there is still a lot of the ocean that has never been explored. This is large because of its great depth, temperatures, and simply the sheer expanse of it. This could easily mean that there are a lot of animals in these waters that human beings are unaware of.
How was the Pacific Ocean formed?
It is believed the Pacific Ocean formed a whopping 250 million years ago. Before this, continents were bunched together and existed as a supercontinent called Pangaea. So you can imagine the Earth’s land mass like jigsaw pieces. At this point, Pangaea was surrounded by one great superocean called Panthalassa.
When Pangaea started to break away due to the tectonic plates, it eventually caused the seven continents (Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America) to form. The result of this also broke up the superocean and created the Pacific, among others
What is the Pacific Ocean?
The Pacific Ocean covers around one-third of Earth’s surface, making it the largest ocean in the world. It contains more than half of the free water on Earth! As a result, it has more than double the volume of water than the Atlantic Ocean, which is the next largest.
So, why is it called the Pacific Ocean? When explorer Ferdinand Magellan came across this unknown ocean in 1520, he called it the ‘pacific,’ which means peaceful. It is believed that he chose this word as the water looked very calm and tranquil.
Pacific Ocean Facts for Kids
To get started, here are five fascinating Pacific Ocean Facts for Kids to whet your appetite.
- The Pacific Ocean has most of the islands in the world (around 25,000!)
- It’s bigger than the total size of all the continents on Earth combined.
- The deepest spot on Earth can be found in the Pacific Ocean. It’s called the Mariana Trench.
- The Pacific Ocean is home to many fascinating creatures and the world’s largest living structure – the Great Barrier Reef.
- The furthest place from land, Point Nemo, or the “oceanic pole of inaccessibility,” can be found in the Southern Pacific Ocean. It’s so far from land that the nearest humans are often the astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
Where is the Pacific Ocean located?
The Pacific Ocean covers approximately 63 million square miles, reaching the shores of Antarctica, North and South America, Asia, and Australia. Due to ocean circulation, the Pacific Ocean is split into two separate volumes of water, known as the Northern Pacific Ocean and the Southern Pacific Ocean, which meet at the equator.
What wildlife calls the Pacific Ocean home?
Scientists believe around one million species call our world’s oceans home. Due to it being so large, the Pacific Ocean, in particular, is home to many fascinating species. From tiny shrimp to the colossal blue whale, you’ll find a huge array of creatures, big and small, many of which can’t be found anywhere else on the planet.
Many birds live near and feed on the Pacific Ocean. The albatross is one of the most common birds living along the Pacific coastline. They are the seabirds with the longest life expectancy and can live to around 40-50 years old. The wandering albatross, most commonly found in the South Pacific, are among the largest seabirds. They have the largest wingspan of any bird in the world, reaching an average length of 12 feet.
You can also find penguins living along the coast of the Pacific Ocean, including the Galápagos penguin that lives in the Galápagos Islands in the North Pacific. The Galápagos penguin is the only penguin found north of the equator. All others live in the southern hemisphere, like the Humboldt penguin. This small penguin lives in South America, along the Pacific coast. This is the only place in the world where you’ll find wild Humboldt penguins!
You can find a variety of mammals in the Pacific, starting with whales. There are thought to be over 20 species of whales in the Pacific Ocean, including the blue whale, humpback whale, sperm whale, and orca (also known as a killer whale).
As well as whales, you’ll also find dolphins, like the Pacific white-sided dolphin, living in the temperate waters of the North Pacific Ocean. Bottlenose dolphins can also be found in the Pacific, ranging from the shores of northern Japan to California, Australia, and Chile.
You’ll also find a range of seal species in the Pacific Ocean, most commonly swimming in the waters of the North Pacific or lounging on the rocky islands along the coast. Some common seal species in the Pacific include the large Elephant Seal and the Fur Seal. Did you know that the Elephant seal can dive to 3,000 feet? That’s deeper than any other seal species!
When many people think of sharks, they think of the fearsome Great White who swims in the cold, deep waters of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. However, it’s good to remember that over 500 species of shark are across our planet’s oceans! For example, there are thought to be over 37 species of shark living in the Pacific, including the hammerhead, mako, blue, and goblin shark.
The Pacific Ocean is also home to the largest type of ray in the world – the Giant Oceanic Manta Ray. They have an average wingspan of almost 9 meters wide and can weigh over 2,400 kg. That’s around the same weight as an adult Black rhinoceros!
Other animals you can find in the Pacific Ocean include:
- Sea Turtle
- Sea Otter
- Giant Squid
How deep is the Pacific Ocean?
The Pacific Ocean is so deep that if you were to drop a pebble into the deepest part, it would take over an hour to reach the seabed at the bottom.
The Pacific is the deepest ocean, with an average depth of 4,000 meters. The deepest point on Earth is also found in the Pacific Ocean. It’s called Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench and reaches a depth of 10,928 meters. That’s even deeper than Mount Everest is tall. That means if you put Mount Everest at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, it would still be over 2,000 meters below the surface!
The Mariana Trench
The Mariana Trench is located in the South Pacific Ocean, east of the Philippines and around 120 miles east of the Mariana Islands. It’s so deep that only three people have ever reached the planet’s deepest point, Challenger Deep. Two explorers, Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard, managed the descent in 1960. Then, in 2019, Victor Vescovo descended to the bottom four times, becoming the first person ever to dive into Challenger Deep more than once.
As you venture further and further into the depths of the Mariana Trench, temperatures drop to a bone-chilling 1 to 4 °C. However, about a mile into the trench, you could discover temperatures on the opposite side of the scale. There you can find hydrothermal vents that can reach temperatures of 400 °C. That’s hot enough to melt solid metal.
Due to the Mariana Trench’s extreme temperatures and lack of light, many strange and extraordinary creatures live in the depths. These include the seadevil angler fish, frilled shark, deep-sea dragonfish, and the dumbo octopus.
The coastline of the Pacific Ocean
Being the largest ocean on earth, the Pacific shares its coastline with many different countries – 36 of them, to be exact! Some of the countries that border the Pacific Ocean include:
Many beautiful islands and archipelagos are also found in the Pacific Ocean. Over 25,000, to be exact! An archipelago is a large group of islands, such as Fiji or the Hawaiian Archipelago. Some of the largest archipelagos are in the Pacific Ocean, including Japan, the Philippines, New Zealand, and Indonesia. Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world, with over 17,500 islands.
The Pacific Ocean also has a 25,000-mile coastline of volcanoes known as the Ring of Fire. This is a horseshoe-shaped line around the edge of the Pacific Ocean which is home to around 75% of the world’s volcanoes and 90% of the world’s earthquakes. There are at least 452 volcanoes in the Ring of Fire, including:
- The Cascade Volcanic Arc
- Mount Tamora
- Mount Ruapehu
- Mount Fuji
You can also find many atolls in the Pacific Ocean. Atolls are living coral islands or reefs surrounding a lagoon, a body of water separated from the sea. Atolls in the Pacific include Bikini Atoll; Nanumea; Rongerik Atoll; Kure Atoll; and the Tubbataha Reef.
Most of the world’s atolls are found in the Pacific and the Indian Ocean, and the Pacific also has the largest number of coral species in the world. The Pacific Ocean is also home to the Great Barrier Reef. This is the largest coral reef in the world, covering around 133,999 square miles. It’s so big that it can be seen from the moon!
Why is it important to protect the Pacific Ocean?
As everywhere in the world, the Pacific Ocean is threatened by global warming and climate change. As the temperature rises, so do the Earth’s water levels. However, the Pacific rises about 2-3 times more than other oceans. This can be because of its proximity to Antarctica and its already copious size.
This poses a great risk to Pacific Islands, as they can lose a lot of land mass. Moreover, the temperature of the Pacific is rising. This can cause problems such as the corrosion of coastlines, the death of marine life, and the bleaching of coral. This would be a great shame because the ocean is rampant with activity and beautiful things to see. A notable example of this is the Great Barrier Reef, off the coast of Australia. This has been listed as one of the natural wonders of the world. However, much of the reef has been transformed because of rising temperatures and pollution. The usual bright colors have turned white, and animals are reduced. A worrying fact is that the Barrier Reef has lost over half of its coral since 1995.
Global warming has also affected the usual cycle of rainfall on the Pacific Islands. This has caused droughts and harmed the ecosystem and food production. Due to this, islands in the Pacific are some of the locations that could be most at risk from climate change. However, by monitoring gas emissions, remembering to recycle, and being conscious of your carbon footprint, you will be able to help preserve the many wonderful things in the Pacific.