World Facts

How Was the Pacific Ocean Named?

The Pacific Ocean was named by Ferdinand Magellan.

The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest ocean in the world. It covers approximately one-third of the Earth’s total surface area, translating to approximately 59 million square miles. It is almost twice as large as the Atlantic Ocean, the world's second largest ocean. The Pacific Ocean is located between Asia, Australia, Americas, and the Southern Ocean. It is divided into the South and North Pacific, and the equator serves as the imaginary dividing line. The Pacific is of great economic importance to the countries that border it, due to its rich fish resources and important transportation routes.

Naming of the Pacific Ocean

The Pacific Ocean was named by Portuguese navigator and explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who was on a journey across the Atlantic Ocean in search of a western sea route to the Spice Islands via South America. He started his journey across the Atlantic in 1519 and sailed through the seas and straits, including the Strait of Magellan, which was named after him. Along the way, Magellan discovered his fleet had entered an unfamiliar ocean. He observed that the waters of the unfamiliar ocean were very peaceful compared to the stormy seas he had sailed through, especially Cape Horn. The currents of the unfamiliar ocean were very calm, so he decided to name the mass of water Pacifico, due to its peaceful nature.

Pacifico is the Spanish word for peaceful, and originates from “pacificus,” a word in Latin with the same meaning as pacifico. The name evolved to form the English term “Pacific." Interestingly, the Pacific Ocean is not particularly calm. However, Magellan considered it to be calmer in comparison to the other seas he had navigated.

When in the “unfamiliar” waters, Magellan thought he was close to the shores of Spice Islands. Little did he know that he still had a long way to go because he had just entered the largest oceanic basin in the world.

Magellan died in 1521 and was unable to complete the circumnavigation process. However, Juan Sebastián Elcano, a Spanish navigator, took charge of the expedition to Spain, marking the first ever complete circumnavigation of the world in 1522.

What Was the Ocean’s Name Before?

Due to Magellan’s discovery and extensive exploration of the ocean, the Pacific was widely known as the "Sea of Magellan." This name became widespread, despite Magellan himself naming it "Ocean Pacifico." It was not until the 18th century that the name "Pacifico," which later evolved to "Pacific," became common.

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