Facts about the Pacific Ocean, the planet's largest expanse.
Portugese sailor Ferdinand Magellan set sail from Seville in Spain on 10th of August 1519 in the hope of finding a trade route through to Asia, by travelling from west to east. His journey was to take him 3 months and 20 days, but find a route he did, by sailing around Cape Horn on the southern most tip of South America, across the stretch of water that is now called the Magellan Strait, in honour of his find.
On entering the Pacific, he found the sea to be very calm, and subsequently named it Mare Pacificum, the peaceful sea.
Statistically the Pacific Ocean is the largest single area on the planet.It covers an area of 155,557 million sq km, 28 % or one third of the globe's surface, bigger than all the world's land areas combined.
As well as being the largest of the world's five oceans, the Pacific is also the deepest ranging from 4,280 metres and dropping to almost 11,000 metres at an area known as the Mariana Trench, supposedly the lowest point on the planet, being as deep as mount Everest is high.
Position of the Mariana Trench.
It's overall length from north to south is some 19, 500 km, which is divided into the North Pacific and the South Pacific at the line of the Equator.
It's maximum width is 17,700 km from -panama- in Central America to Malaysia in south east Asia.
It's narrowest point is at the Bering Straits, a stretch of water 85 km in width between the American state of Alaska and the province of Chukotsky in the Russian Federation.
Since Magellan's epic passage of 1519 three more passages from Atlantic to Pacific have been found. The North West Passage,a route through northern Canada's Arctic Ocean, a route first navigated by Norwegian Roald Amundsen in 1903.
Drakes Passage, a route between Chile's Cape Horn and the South Shetland Islands, just north of the Antarctic peninsula, first navigated in Septmber 1578 by English privateer Sir Francis Drake.
The busiest route however is through the Panama Ship Canal, built by the Americans and opened in 1914.The 77 km long canal takes roughly ten hours to navigate, and carries an estimated 309 million tons of shipping every year.
The Pacific Ocean as seen from space.
Theoretically situated in the Pacific Ocean is the International Date Line ( I.D.L ), an imaginary line set at the 180 meridian, which changes the date as one travels east or west across it.
It corresponds to the time zone boundary that seperates - 12 and + 12 G.M.T ( -greenwich/ Mean Time ). Crossing eastwards the traveller loses a day, crossing westwards the traveller gains a day.
The last recorded time in the world is attributed to Attu Island in the Aleutian Islands, and the first recorded time in the world is attributed to /tonga-.
Becouse of this, for an hour a day there are three different days observed at one time. For example, at U.T.C ( Co - ordinated Universal time ) 10.15 Wednesday ,it is U.T.C 23.15 Thursday in Samoa and U.T.C 00.15 Friday in Kiribati.
There are over 25,000 islands situated in the Pacific, made up of mainly small coral reefs and platforms, and volcanic atolls, most of which are situated south of the Equator.
The largest single land mass situated entirely in the Pacific is the island of Papua New Guinea, the second largest island in the world, at 462,840 sq km , that lies off the north coast of Australia.
The Pacific is also home to the largest coral reef in the world, The Great Barrier Reef, an area the size of the U.K, situated off the north east coast of Australia.
The Pacific Ocean is associated with the phenomenon known as the Pacific Ring of Fire.A 40,000 km horseshoe shape area along it's outer limits ( along the western coast of the Americas and the eastern coastline of Asia ), at the site of several of the earth's tectonic plates, as well as 452 active volcano sites, volcanic arcs, volcanic belts and oceanic trenches.The area has seen 75 % of the world's earthquakes and volcanic activity, as well as high instances of hurricanes, tornadoes and tsunami's.
A Pacific storm lashing the coast of California.
So much for Magellan's term the ' peaceful sea ', he must have caught it on a good day, as the weather in the Pacific is known to be the stormiest of all the oceans, due to erratic tropical storms that can blow up in an instant and erratic underwater currents.
Becouse of it's size, it's climate ranges from Polar through to tropical, which in turn brings about a diverse marine life which is home to rare eco - systems and micro systems, much of which remain unexplored amongst it's thousands of isolated and uninhabited islands and atolls above sea level, and deep trenches and hundreds of kilometres of underwater mountain ranges and extinct volcanoes, below sea level.
ARTICLES ABOUT PACIFIC ISLANDS BY THE SAME AUTHOR.
Images courtesy of wikimedia commons.