Did you know 71% of the planet is water? And that the world’s biggest ocean – the Pacific – is larger than all seven continents combined? But their impact on the world is even great than their size. Oceans produce over half of the world’s oxygen (through underwater plants), plus new medicines and jobs.
Yet despite this, there are being maltreated. Overfishing, deep-sea mining, fossil fuels and garbage pollution mean that 50% of coral reefs have been destroyed and whales, sea turtles, sea otters and sea lions are endangered.
So to ‘ignite collective action to revitalise the ocean and all it sustains’ this World Ocean Day (8 June 2022), here are 7 incredible facts about the biggest ocean on the planet.
Crazy facts about the world’s biggest ocean
It’s bigger than Mars
With an area of 60 million square miles (165,250,000 square km) the Pacific ocean is simply humongous. How big? It’s bigger than Mars! Covering approximately 30% of the world’s surface, it stretches from China to California – bordering 41 countries – with North and South Americas lying to the East and Australia and Asia to the West. To get an idea, all 7 continents could fit into the Pacific ocean basin (with room left over).
‘The Ring of Fire’ exists here
Encircling the Pacific ocean, you’ll find a 40,000km long horseshoe-shaped rim that contains 75% of all the world’s active volcanoes. The Circum-Pacific Belt, commonly known as ‘The Ring of Fire’ is a natural disaster waiting to happen. In fact, the 452 volcanoes here cause approximately 90% of the world’s earthquakes. Several tectonic plates here (including Pacific, Nazca, Juan de Fuca, Cocos, Indian-Australian, Philippine and North American Plates) could collide and sink beneath one another, causing seismic tectonic activity. Some notable tragedies include the Valdivia Earthquake of Chile in 1960 and Japan earthquake in 2011.
The world’s deepest place is found here
The Pacific isn’t just the world’s biggest ocean, it’s also the deepest (with an average depth of 13,000 feet). And contains the world’s deepest point: the Mariana Trench. In the West Pacific, to the East of the Philippines, you’ll find this crescent-shaped oceanic trench (created by tectonic plate movements that create a depression on the seafloor). Staggeringly, it’s almost 7 miles deep. That’s 11,034 meters (36,201 feet). To give it some perspective, it’s even deeper than Mount Everest is high.
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The Great Barrier Reef is in the world’s biggest ocean
Glowing off the north-eastern coast of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is a pearl in the Pacific. It’s registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site and listed as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. And unsurprisingly, visitors flock here to snorkel in its crystal-clear waters, soak in warm sun and marvel at colourful coral. It is the largest living organism in the world (stretching 2,600km) and can be seen from space. There’s a reason it’s top on bucket lists of explorers everywhere.
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25,000 islands dot the water
25,000 unique islands float in Pacific waters. And lucky for travellers – many of them are begging to be explored. These range from New Zealand’s South Island to dreamy Hawaii in the North Pacific. A hotspot for ex-pats who visit for its white-sand beaches and pristine surfing waves. Other standouts include New Caledonia, Tonga, Samoa and Fiji. Plus Australia’s Tasmania and Japan’s Hokkaido and Honshu.
Atolls are everywhere here in the world’s biggest ocean
You can spot many coral rings – ‘atolls’ – that encircle lagoons and small islands in the Pacific. They’re caused by volcanic underwater activity and look as postcard-perfect as it gets. And with the majority of atolls existing here, they’re a unique part of the world’s biggest ocean.
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The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Stretching from West Coast California to Japan, ‘The Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ is a brutal reminder of our need to protect the world’s oceans. In the north Pacific sea, this huge chunk of marine debris is three times the size of France. A large system of swirling ocean currents collate the plastics together into this enormous patch.
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The world’s biggest ocean is shrinking
Yes, you heard it right. The Pacific Ocean is shrinking 0.5 square kilometres. This is due to the Pacific’s three subduction zones, when it submerges under other plates.
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What surprised you most about the world’s biggest ocean? Tell us in the comments below