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Pacific Ocean

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The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of the Earth's ocean divisions. It extends from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Antarctic Ocean in the south and is bounded by Asia and Australia in the West and the Americas in the east.

With 165,250,000 square kilometres of surface, the Pacific Ocean covers about 46% of the land's water surface and about one third of its total surface area. The equator subdivides it into the North Pacific Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean. Its average depth is 4,280 meters. The Mariana Trench in the western North Pacific is the deepest point in the world, reaching a depth of 10,911 meters.

Although the peoples of Asia and Oceania have travelled the Pacific Ocean since prehistoric times, the eastern Pacific was first sighted by Europeans at the beginning of the 16th century when the Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa crossed the Isthmus of Panama in 1513 and discovered what he called "South Sea", which later received its current name thanks to the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in 1521.


Important human migrations were given in the Pacific in prehistoric times. Near the 3000 BC, the people of the island of Taiwan dominated the art of long-distance canoeing and spread along their languages to the south of the Philippines, to Indonesia, and to southeast Asia Maritime. Long-distance travel was developed along the coast from Mozambique to Japan. Trade, and therefore knowledge, spread to the Indonesian islands, but apparently not to Australia. At least until the year 878 when there was a significant Islamic settlement in canton so much of this trade was controlled by Arabs or Muslims.

The first contact of the European navigators with the western end of the Pacific Ocean was made by the Portuguese expeditions of António de Abreu and Francisco Serrão, through the lesser Sunda Islands, to the Moluccas Islands, in 1512, and with the Commanded by Jorge Álvares in southern China in 1513, both ordered by Alfonso de Albuquerque of Malacca.

Later, the Portuguese explorer Fernando de Magallanes sailed the Pacific from east to west on a Spanish expedition with the object of circumnavigate the world that departed in 1519. Magellan called the Pacific Ocean because, after sailing through the stormy seas of Cape Horn, the expedition found calm waters. Magallanes died in 1521 in the Philippines and Spanish navigator Juan Sebastian Elcano led the expedition back to Spain through the Indian Ocean, surrounding the Cape of Good Hope and completing the first circumnavigation of the world in a single expedition In 1522.

In 1564, five Spanish ships with 379 explorers aboard, crossed the ocean led by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, from Mexico to the Philippines and the Mariana Islands. For the remainder of the 16th century, Spain's dominance over the Pacific was overwhelming, with ships sailing from Mexico and Peru to the Philippines and Guam establishing the Spanish East Indies.

Later, in the 17th century, more Spanish expeditions discovered new islands and archipelagos, while Dutch explorers joined this maelstrom of explorations. In fact, it was the Dutch Willem Janszoon who put the first European foot in Australia, while his compatriots threatened Spanish dominance over the Philippines.

In the eighteenth century, the Russians explored Alaska and the Aleutian; The Spaniards arrived on the island of Vancouver (Canada) and Alaska; The French, established Polynesia and the British with James Cook in front, travelled to the South Pacific, to Australia and to Hawaii. The last major expedition was organized by Spain: The Malaespina Expedition from 1789 to 1794, sailing through vast areas of the Pacific, from Alaska to Cape Horn, Guam and the Philippines, New Zealand, Australia and the South Pacific.



The Pacific separates Asia and Australia from the Americas. Divided by the equator in North Pacific and South Pacific, it extends from the Antarctic region in the south to the Arctic in the north. It covers approximately one third of the Earth's surface, with an area of 165.2 million km2, significantly larger than the surface occupied by the firm land of about 150 million km2.

It extends approximately 15,500 km from the Bering Sea to the Antarctic Glacial ocean and about 19,800 km from Indonesia to the coast of Colombia. Due to the effects of plate tectonics, the Pacific Ocean is currently being reduced in width by approximately 2.5 cm per year and loses approximately an average of 0.52 km2 of surface a year. On the contrary, the Atlantic Ocean is increasing in size.

The Pacific Ocean hosts many seas: the Sea of Coral, the Sea of China, the Sea of Japan, the Sea of Tasmania... Straits: Torres, Malacca, Bering, Magallanes... Its waters bathe many sovereign countries and territories: Australia, Canada, United States, Colombia, China, Panama, Kiribati, Tonga, Tuvalu, Baker Island, Guam, Macao, Hong Kong, Tokelau... And it is the ocean that owns the majority of islands that exist (about 25,000), grouped in three large groups: Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia. Micronesia includes the Mariana Islands, the Carolinas and the Marshall Islands; Melanesia includes new Guinea, the Bismarck archipelago, the Solomon Islands and new Caledonia; Polynesia includes Hawaii, New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga and Easter Island.

The coral reefs of the South Pacific are low structures that have accumulated in basaltic lava flows beneath the ocean surface. One of the most spectacular is the Great Barrier Reef of north eastern Australia with chains of coral islands.

aguayvidaCharacteristics of its waters

The volume of water in the Pacific Ocean represents about 50.1 percent of the world's ocean water. It has been estimated at about 714 million cubic kilometres. Surface water temperatures in the Pacific can vary from − 1.4 °c, the freezing point of seawater, to 30 °c near the equator.

Salinity also varies latitudinally, reaching a maximum of 37 parts per thousand in the south eastern area. Water near the equator, which may have a salinity as low as 34 parts per thousand, is less salty than that found in the mid-latitudes due to abundant equatorial precipitation throughout the year. The lowest records of less than 32 parts per thousand are at the north end as less evaporation of seawater is produced in these cold areas.

The movement of its waters is generally in the clockwise direction in the northern hemisphere and on the contrary in the southern hemisphere. Great currents traverse it: Kuroshio current, Aleutian current, Californian current, equatorial current and Humboldt current.




The climatic patterns of the northern and southern hemispheres are usually a reflection of each other. The trade winds in the southern and eastern Pacific are remarkably constant, while conditions in the North Pacific are much more varied with, for example, the cold winter temperatures on the east coast of Russia contrasting with the more climate Mild British Columbia during the winter months due to the flow of ocean currents.

In the tropical and subtropical Pacific, El Niño's Southern Oscillation (ENSO) affects climatic conditions. To determine if ENSO is in phase, the most recent average sea surface temperature of three months is computed for an area of approximately 3,000 km southeast of Hawaii, and if the region is recorded more than 0.5 °c above or below normal for that period, the phenomenon of El Niño or La Niña is considered to be in progress.

All over the world, hurricane or cyclone activity arrives at the end of the summer, when the difference between the air temperatures and the surface of the sea is the largest. However, each particular watershed has its own seasonal patterns. On a global scale, May is the least active month, while September is the busiest month. November is the only month in which all watersheds are active. The Pacific shelters the two most active tropical cyclone basins, the northwest Pacific and the eastern Pacific. Pacific hurricanes are formed in southern Mexico, sometimes hitting the west coast of Mexico and occasionally the southwestern United States between June and October, while typhoons forming in the north western Pacific move to the southeast and East Asia from May to December. Tropical cyclones also form in the South Pacific basin, where they occasionally impact island nations.


The andesite line is the most significant regional distinction in the Pacific. A petrologic boundary, it separates the deepest igneous rock from the Central Pacific basin from the partially submerged continental areas of igneous rock on its margins. The andesite line follows the western boundary of the California Islands and passes south of the Aleutian Islands along the eastern boundary of the Kamchatka Peninsula, the Kuril Islands, Japan, the Marianas, the Solomon Islands and New Zealand.

Within the closed circle of the andesite line are most of the deep canals, the submerged volcanic mountains and the Oceanic volcanic islands that characterize the Pacific basin. Here basaltic lava flows gently from the cracks to build huge dome-shaped volcanic mountains whose eroded peaks form bows, chains, and archipelagos. Outside the andesite line, volcanism is explosive and the Pacific Ring of Fire is the most volcanic area on the planet.

medioambienteEnvironment issues

The number of small plastic fragments floating in the north eastern Pacific Ocean increased by 100% between 1972 and 2012. Marine pollution is a generic term for harmful entry into the ocean of chemicals or particulates. The main culprits are those who use the rivers to dispose of their waste. The rivers are then emptied into the ocean, often also bringing the chemical products used as fertilizers into agriculture. The excess of chemicals that deplete the oxygen in the water leads to hypoxia and to the creation of a dead zone.

Marine waste, also known as Marine waste, is waste created by humans who have ended up floating in a lake, sea, ocean or waterway. Ocean debris tends to accumulate in the centre of turns and coasts, which often reach the beach. In addition, the Pacific Ocean has served as the satellite-drop site.


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