What Is The Pacific Ocean?

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The sun sets over the Pacific, as seen from the Japanese Island of Yakushima.

5. Description

The Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan sailed into the Pacific ocean after sailing out of the tumultuous waters of Cape Horn. He saw the calm waters of this ocean and named it Pacifico, meaning "peaceful" in his native tongue. However, during the Eighteenth Century, it came to simply be known as the Sea of Magellan. The biggest ocean in the world, the Pacific reaches to the Arctic Ocean in the north and the Southern Ocean's Antarctic waters to the south. Its waters reach Oceania and Asia in the west, and in the east span the coasts of the entirety of the Americas. Its climate in the north and south are similar to its eastern waters, while in its tropical west cyclones develop in summer. Most notably, November weather patterns can create an overactive cyclone activity in all of its tropical western cyclone basins.

4. Historical Role

The Pacific Ocean was born 750 million years ago after the supercontinent Rodinia broke up. Modern geologists and scientists refer to it as the Panthalassic Ocean as it existed 200 million years ago, in the period before the then-largest continent, Pangaea, split into several continents. Abraham Ortelius, a Flemish geographer and cartographer, mapped the Pacific Ocean and named it Maris Pacifici. Before the Europeans came, Indonesians and Pacific islanders had long sailed its vast waters to migrate to other island homelands as well as to fish them for food. The voyages of these early people taught invaluable skills in regards to knowledge of the Pacific's water currents, wind patterns and seasons, equatorial counter-currents, its great northern and southern whirls, and its island screens.

3. Modern Significance

The commercial significance of the Pacific Ocean, especially its yields in mineral resources and fish catches, has always been important. Australia and New Zealand have the monopolies on its offshore petroleum and natural gas resources, while Japan hunts whales in its own adjacent waters. The Philippines, Panama, Nicaragua, and Papua New Guinea, meanwhile, harvest sea pearls along their own coastlines. Many of the world's countries fish for salmon, sardines, herring, snapper, tuna, swordfish, and shellfish in its temperate waters. Trawlers also collect crabs, shrimp, and lobster from its deep sands. Among the minerals underneath are ferro-manganese deposits, placer gold, tin, diamonds, titanium, and magnesium. Several rare-earth mineral deposits on the ocean floor have also been found, but mining these with currently available technology and practices will be likely prove to be very expensive, and labor- and time-intensive.

2. Habitat

The marine habitats of the Pacific Ocean are practically the same as those seen in the other oceans in the world, except for regional temperature and salinity variations. The ocean waters that are named "Pelagic" habitats are where marine animals such as fish, sea mammals, and plankton are most present. All marine life live at one time in this Pelagic zone, carrying out such life processes as migrating, growing, feeding, and reproducing. The ocean floor posses what is known as the "Benthic" habitat, and this is where some invertebrates and scavengers live, either on the surface of the ocean floor or within burrows underneath it. The coral reef habitats are to be found in the sunny shallow areas of the ocean close to shore. These are also where the greatest biodiversity is entrenched, and these habitats are identifiable by their myriads of corals sheltering small species of fish and invertebrates.

1. Threats and Disputes

Territorial disputes in the Pacific Ocean have recently returned to global attention, as nations involved have once again accused one another of imperialism, as has so often been the case for several centuries now. The countries involved in the most prominent territorial disputes today are China, Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines. China and Japan are contesting the Senkaku Islands, while China is also involved with the Philippines as they have dispute over the Scarborough Shoal. South Korea and Japan also have an ongoing dispute over Possession of the Dokdo Islets. Marine pollution is also another issue that is not easy to determine the source of, as the usual causes are chemicals and garbage that flow out from rivers to the ocean, which can occur anywhere and then drift for hundreds, or even thousands, of miles, sometimes across sea and oceanic boundaries. Even satellites and spacecraft debris are contributing to the Pacific Ocean pollution issue. However, in this pollution issue, no country admits to owning the garbage in the ocean, and it will doubtlessly take a multilateral approach to effectively clean the worst of it up.

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