Facts About the Atlantic Ocean

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The Atlantic Ocean is the world's second largest body of water and covers an area of 31,800,000 square miles, a total of 22% of the earth's surface.

The name Atlantic comes from the Greek word Atlantikos which was known in the English language at the time, as the Sea of Atlas.

The Greek word Atlantikos was the ancient Greeks name for both the large area of water and the name associated with the lands and peoples that bordered it - in those days just Europe - and bears no reference to either the Greek God Atlas or the lost City of Atlantis. The word Atlantikos and then Atlantic pertained to just the northern part of the ocean for centuries, with the South Atlantic known as the Ethiopian Sea right up until the mid 1800's.

The Atlantic Ocean is the world's saltiest sea with a water salinity level of between 33 - 37 parts per thousand and the world's youngest ocean, being formed long after the Pacific, Indian and Arctic Oceans of the Triassic period.

The area of the Atlantic Ocean also has the world's richest fishing resources and is home to an abundance of petroleum deposits and natural gas fields.

The average, overall depth of the Atlantic Ocean is around 10,955 feet, but the ocean also consists of 4 deep trenches or valleys that plunge the normally flat ocean floor to levels of more than 28,000 feet.

These four trenches are -

The Puerto Rico Trench - Situated at the point where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Carribean Sea and is 500 miles long and 28,232 ft deep.

The Laurentian Abyss - Situated off the east coast of Canada is 19,685 feet deep and was created from the former glacial flow of the Gulf of St Lawrence.

The South Sandwich Trench - Situated in the very south of the Atlantic Ocean is 599 miles long and 27,651 ft deep. 

The Romanche Trench - Situated at the ocean's narrowest point between Sierra Leone in Africa and Brazil in South America, this trench is 300 miles wide and 24,455 ft deep. 


 Image courtesy of Alvesgaspar, wikimedia commons

The Atlantic Ocean is also home to the earth's largest mountain range, The Mid Atlantic Ridge. This vast sub marine mountain range is 24,855 miles long by 990 miles wide and divides the ocean into two distinct east and west regions. The ocean is further divided into north and south at the line of the Equator.

This vast sub marine ridge stretches the full length of the Atlantic Ocean from the north east point of Greenland in the Arctic Ocean all the way down to the Bouvet Triple Junction - a geological junction of three tectonic plates - in the very south of the Atlantic Ocean. The ridge divides the Eurasian tectonic plate from the North American Plate in the North Atlantic and divides the African Plate from the South American Plate in the South Atlantic.

Most of this mountain range is submerged below sea level, but there are a few areas that are situated above sea level at Iceland, Jan Mayan Island (in the Norwegian Sea), Pico Alto Island (in the Azores), Main Island, Bermuda and St Peter and St Paul Rocks off the coast of Brazil in the North Atlantic and the islands of Ascension, Tristan da Cunha, Gough and Bouvet in the South Atlantic.

The ocean also hosts a large underwater, volcanic mountain range called the Walvis Ridge that stretches for thousands of miles from the coast of Namibia in West Africa down towards the South Atlantic island of Tristan da Cunha. 

The Atlantic Ocean is synonymous with the oceanic currents known as the Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic Drift. These warm, northward, accelerating ocean currents begin in the Gulf of Mexico and travel northwards towards Nova Scotia and then westwards out across to Europe.

These warm currents define the winter climate of Western Europe, giving the area a much milder winter than it geographically warrants and also contribute to the dense fogs that shroud the eastern seaboard of Canada.

The Atlantic Ocean is also notorious for its tropical cyclones which result in the annual weather phenomena known as the Hurricane Season which affects areas of Central America, the islands of the Caribbean and the eastern seaboard of the U.S.A between the months of June and November. Many of these hurricanes make landfall causing havoc and destruction in their wake, the most notorious of which was the Atlantic Ocean's Hurricane Katrina which devastated the American city of New Orleans in August 2005.

Hurricanes are formed when lack of wind shear causes low pressure to form over warm ocean waters causing evaporation of the ocean's surface. A hurricane's energy source is fuelled by this water vapour, which then goes on to whip up winds that spiral out of control.  

Other synonymous oceanic areas of the Atlantic include the North Atlantic Gyre, one of five major oceanic gyres - rotating ocean currents - worldwide that traps both marine and man made debris. This particular gyre is hundreds of miles across and contains an average of 200,000 pieces of debris per square mile and travels around the ocean covering over 900 miles a year.

The Atlantic is also famous for being the home of the legendary area known as the Bermuda Triangle, an area renowned for the mystery disappearance of several aircraft and ships.

The Atlantic Ocean consists of hundreds of islands, including the large islands of Greenland, Iceland, Newfoundland and Ireland and several large island groups and archipelagos including Bermuda, Madeira, The Azores, The Canaries, Cape Verde, Svalbard and the world's most isolated island group, that of Ascension, St Helena and Tristan da Cunha situated 2000 miles off the coast of South Africa.

The Atlantic Ocean also borders 91 countries, 12 in North and Central America, 27 in the Caribbean, 10 in South America, 27 in Africa and 16 in Europe.

The Atlantic Ocean borders or feeds 24 seas, gulfs and large bays, these are -

Arctic Sea

Baltic Sea

Bay of Biscay

Bay of Fundy

Barents Sea

Black Sea: Connects with the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean Sea.

Bristol Channel

Caribbean Sea

Celtic Sea

Davis Straits

Denmark Straits

Drakes Passage: Connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean.

English Channel

Gibraltar Straits: Connects The Mediterranean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean.

Greenland Sea

Gulf of Mexico

Gulf of St Lawrence

Hudson Bay

Irish Sea

Mediterranean Sea

Norwegian Sea

North Sea

Sargasso Sea: The only sea situated completely within the Atlantic Ocean and the world's only sea with out a shore.

Southern Ocean

The Atlantic Ocean is also connected to the Pacific Ocean by way of the man made Panama Canal, whose entrance is actually located in the Caribbean Sea.






Posted on Mar 24, 2011
Jerry Walch
Posted on Mar 16, 2011
Ron Siojo
Posted on Mar 16, 2011