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Pacific Ocean: The Giant Body of Water With Its Own Challenges

Updated: Dec 21, 2023


Makapu‘u Point, Pacific Ocean
Makapu‘u Point, Pacific Ocean. Photo Credit: Unsplash/Karson


Quick Facts About the Pacific Ocean:

Surface area: 63,800,000 sq mi (165,250,000 sq km)

Average depth: 14,040 feet (4,280 m)

Max. depth: 35,797 feet (10,911 m)


About the Pacific Ocean

The Pacific Ocean is a vital part of the world economy, providing trade, tourism, energy, scenic beauty, and food for millions of people along its route. It also influences the global climate and weather patterns such as El Niño and La Niña. The largest and deepest of Earth’s oceans, it extends from the Arctic Ocean in the North to Antarctica in the South and is bounded by Asia in the West and the Americas in the East.


The Pacific Ocean was officially “discovered” in 1521, but travelers have used it for much longer. Canoe travel, especially around Taiwan, during this period was becoming significantly more important for trade and migration. Although navigation was far more primitive back then, as they only had the basic types of tools, they most likely used the same trade winds and equatorial currents that we still use today for navigation.


Despite scientists discovering human migration across the nearby Bering Strait as far back as 30,000 to 16,000 years ago, it was around 3,000 BCE (Before Common Era) that humans embarked on voyages across parts of the Pacific Ocean.


Scientists say the Pacific Ocean is around 750 million years old! And the volume of water in this gigantic ocean is found to be about 50% of all the world’s oceanic water volume. But it is also true that, incredibly, the ocean is shrinking around one inch every year! This phenomenon is attributed to the effects of plate tectonics under the ocean. It occurs around three sides of the basin, while at the same time, the Atlantic Ocean is growing by the same amount every year due to a similar reason.


As with other oceanic bodies, there are currents in the Pacific ocean - some warm, some cold and there are ten of them. These currents are extremely important to us because they influence trade and weather factors. They are: 1. North Equatorial Current (warm) 2. South Equatorial Current (warm) 3. Counter Equatorial Current (warm) 4. Kuroshio System(warm) 5. Oyashio Current (cold) 6. California Current (cold) 7. Peru Current (cold) 8. El Nino or Counter Current (warm) 9. East Australia Current (warm) 10. West Wind Drift (cold).


Marine Life in the Pacific Ocean

The Pacific Ocean provides a rich feeding ground for many types of marine wildlife. Important ecosystems of the Pacific include seagrass meadows, which are important breeding and feeding grounds for manatees and dugongs. Coral reefs are vital parts of the food chain. They support thousands of marine species, including reef fish, sharks, and sea turtles.

Pacific Ocean Currents
Pacific Ocean Currents. Photo Credit: geographynotes.com


Marine species such as whales, sea turtles, sea otters, seals, and sea lions all live in the Pacific Ocean.


However, scientists are concerned about the future of marine life in the Pacific. Water pollution, oil pollution including an increase in hunting by fishermen by a massive scale are threatening the marine life.


Great Pacific Garbage Patch

It is a collection of marine debris that stretches from the West coast of North America to the Sea of Japan. Marine debris is litter, mostly human garbage, that ends up in oceans, seas, and other large bodies of water. They are formed by rotating ocean currents called “gyres” which suck in the waste in huge numbers. The gyres pull debris into one location, often the gyre's center, forming “patches”.


Gyres are systems of circulating oceanic currents, like whirlpools, although much larger. There are five gyres in our oceans, one in the Indian Ocean, two in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. While the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is not the only garbage patch, it is the biggest. The island-sized patch contains everything from water bottles to tires, desk chairs, and cellphones. It holds around two trillion plastic pieces and contains about 1/3rd of all the plastic pollution in the world’s oceans! It is mostly made up of microplastics. Therefore, the Pacific Ocean is also one of the most polluted oceans in the world.


The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Photo Credit: forbes.com

Effect of the Garbage Patches on Marine Life

These garbage patches result in untold damage to marine life since organisms are frequently trapped in them or choke on them. The garbage also releases toxins in water as well as into the air. Authorities are trying very hard to clean up the debris but it is going to take a very long time. The Ocean Cleanup Project, one of the rescue organizations, estimates that plastic pollution caused by tourism and fishing costs about 13 billion dollars of loss each year.


Did you know?

  • The Mariana Trench, the deepest point on earth, is located in the western Pacific, East of the Philippines, and around 124 miles (200 km) East of the Mariana Islands. It is crescent-shaped, measuring more than 1,500 miles (2,550 km) with a width of about 43 miles (69 kilometers).

  • The Challenger Deep is the single deepest spot in the ocean. It lies 200 miles (322 kilometers) southwest of Guam and is nearly seven miles (11 km) deep.


 

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