Pacific Ocean

The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Southern Ocean (or, depending on definition, to Antarctica) in the south and is bounded by the continents of Asia and Australia in the west and the Americas in the east.

At 165,250,000 square kilometers (63,800,000 square miles) in area (as defined with an Antarctic southern border), this largest division of the World Ocean—and, in turn, the hydrosphere—covers about 46% of Earth's water surface and about one-third of its total surface area, making it larger than all of Earth's land area combined.[1] The centers of both the Water Hemisphere and the Western Hemisphere are in the Pacific Ocean. The equator subdivides it into the North(ern) Pacific Ocean and South(ern) Pacific Ocean, with two exceptions: the Galápagos and Gilbert Islands, while straddling the equator, are deemed wholly within the South Pacific.[2] Its mean depth is 4,000 meters (13,000 feet).[3] The Mariana Trench in the western North Pacific is the deepest point in the world, reaching a depth of 10,911 meters (35,797 feet).[4] The western Pacific has many peripheral seas.

Though the peoples of Asia and Oceania have traveled the Pacific Ocean since prehistoric times, the eastern Pacific was first sighted by Europeans in the early 16th century when Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa crossed the Isthmus of Panama in 1513 and discovered the great "southern sea" which he named Mar del Sur (in Spanish). The ocean's current name was coined by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan during the Spanish circumnavigation of the world in 1521, as he encountered favorable winds on reaching the ocean. He called it Mar Pacífico, which in both Portuguese and Spanish means "peaceful sea".[5]

Pacific Ocean
Map of the Pacific Ocean
Coordinates0°N 160°W / 0°N 160°WCoordinates: 0°N 160°W / 0°N 160°W
Surface area165,250,000 km2 (63,800,000 sq mi)
Average depth4,280 m (14,040 ft)
Max. depth10,911 m (35,797 ft)
Water volume710,000,000 km3 (170,000,000 cu mi)
IslandsList of islands
SettlementsAnchorage, Auckland, Busan, Guayaquil, Hong Kong, Honolulu, Lima, Los Angeles, Manila, Melbourne, Osaka, Panama City, Papeete, San Francisco, Seattle, Shanghai, Singapore, Suva, Sydney, Tijuana, Tokyo, Valparaíso, Vancouver, Vladivostok

History

Early migrations

Waldseemuller map 2
Universalis Cosmographia, the Waldseemüller map dated 1507, from a time when the nature of the Americas was ambiguous, particularly North America, as a possible part of Asia, was the first map to show the Americas separating two distinct oceans. South America was generally considered a "new world" and shows the name "America" for the first time, after Amerigo Vespucci
Carta universal en que se contiene todo lo que del mundo se ha descubierto fasta agora hizola Diego Ribero cosmographo de su magestad, ano de 1529, en Sevilla
Made in 1529, the Diogo Ribeiro map was the first to show the Pacific at about its proper size
Ortelius - Maris Pacifici 1589
Maris Pacifici by Ortelius (1589). One of the first printed maps to show the Pacific Ocean[6]

Important human migrations occurred in the Pacific in prehistoric times. About 3000 BC, the Austronesian peoples on the island of Taiwan mastered the art of long-distance canoe travel and spread themselves and their languages south to the Philippines, Indonesia, and maritime Southeast Asia; west towards Madagascar; southeast towards New Guinea and Melanesia (intermarrying with native Papuans); and east to the islands of Micronesia, Oceania and Polynesia.[7]

Long-distance trade developed all along the coast from Mozambique to Japan. Trade, and therefore knowledge, extended to the Indonesian islands but apparently not Australia. By at least 878 when there was a significant Islamic settlement in Canton much of this trade was controlled by Arabs or Muslims. In 219 BC Xu Fu sailed out into the Pacific searching for the elixir of immortality. From 1404 to 1433 Zheng He led expeditions into the Indian Ocean.

European exploration

A generall chart of the South Sea ... NYPL481132.tiff
Map of the Pacific Ocean during European Exploration, circa 1702–1707.
A compleat chart of the coast of Asia and America with the great South Sea - R.W. Seale del. et sculp. NYPL465242.tiff
Map of the Pacific Ocean during European Exploration, circa 1754.

The first contact of European navigators with the western edge of the Pacific Ocean was made by the Portuguese expeditions of António de Abreu and Francisco Serrão, via the Lesser Sunda Islands, to the Maluku Islands, in 1512,[8][9] and with Jorge Álvares's expedition to southern China in 1513,[10] both ordered by Afonso de Albuquerque from Malacca.

The east side of the ocean was discovered by Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa in 1513 after his expedition crossed the Isthmus of Panama and reached a new ocean.[11] He named it Mar del Sur (literally, "Sea of the South" or "South Sea") because the ocean was to the south of the coast of the isthmus where he first observed the Pacific.

SpanishPacific
Spanish explorations and routes across the Pacific Ocean.

In 1519, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan sailed the Pacific East to West on a Spanish expedition to the Spice Islands that would eventually result in the first world circumnavigation. Magellan called the ocean Pacífico (or "Pacific" meaning, "peaceful") because, after sailing through the stormy seas off Cape Horn, the expedition found calm waters. The ocean was often called the Sea of Magellan in his honor until the eighteenth century.[12] Magellan stopped at one uninhabited Pacific island before stopping at Guam in March 1521.[13] Although Magellan himself died in the Philippines in 1521, Spanish Basque navigator Juan Sebastián Elcano led the remains of the expedition back to Spain across the Indian Ocean and round the Cape of Good Hope, completing the first world circumnavigation in a single expedition in 1522.[14] Sailing around and east of the Moluccas, between 1525 and 1527, Portuguese expeditions discovered the Caroline Islands,[15] the Aru Islands,[16] and Papua New Guinea.[17] In 1542–43 the Portuguese also reached Japan.[18]

In 1564, five Spanish ships carrying 379 explorers crossed the ocean from Mexico led by Miguel López de Legazpi, and sailed to the Philippines and Mariana Islands.[19] For the remainder of the 16th century, Spanish influence was paramount, with ships sailing from Mexico and Peru across the Pacific Ocean to the Philippines via Guam, and establishing the Spanish East Indies. The Manila galleons operated for two and a half centuries, linking Manila and Acapulco, in one of the longest trade routes in history. Spanish expeditions also discovered Tuvalu, the Marquesas, the Cook Islands, the Solomon Islands, and the Admiralty Islands in the South Pacific.[20]

Later, in the quest for Terra Australis ("the [great] Southern Land"), Spanish explorations in the 17th century, such as the expedition led by the Portuguese navigator Pedro Fernandes de Queirós, discovered the Pitcairn and Vanuatu archipelagos, and sailed the Torres Strait between Australia and New Guinea, named after navigator Luís Vaz de Torres. Dutch explorers, sailing around southern Africa, also engaged in discovery and trade; Willem Janszoon, made the first completely documented European landing in Australia (1606), in Cape York Peninsula,[21] and Abel Janszoon Tasman circumnavigated and landed on parts of the Australian continental coast and discovered Tasmania and New Zealand in 1642.[22]

In the 16th and 17th centuries Spain considered the Pacific Ocean a mare clausum—a sea closed to other naval powers. As the only known entrance from the Atlantic, the Strait of Magellan was at times patrolled by fleets sent to prevent entrance of non-Spanish ships. On the western side of the Pacific Ocean the Dutch threatened the Spanish Philippines.[23]

The 18th century marked the beginning of major exploration by the Russians in Alaska and the Aleutian Islands, such as the First Kamchatka expedition and the Great Northern Expedition, led by the Danish Russian navy officer Vitus Bering. Spain also sent expeditions to the Pacific Northwest, reaching Vancouver Island in southern Canada, and Alaska. The French explored and settled Polynesia, and the British made three voyages with James Cook to the South Pacific and Australia, Hawaii, and the North American Pacific Northwest. In 1768, Pierre-Antoine Véron, a young astronomer accompanying Louis Antoine de Bougainville on his voyage of exploration, established the width of the Pacific with precision for the first time in history.[24] One of the earliest voyages of scientific exploration was organized by Spain in the Malaspina Expedition of 1789–1794. It sailed vast areas of the Pacific, from Cape Horn to Alaska, Guam and the Philippines, New Zealand, Australia, and the South Pacific.[20]

New Imperialism

Trieste (23 Jan 1960).jpeg
The bathyscaphe Trieste, before her record dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, 23 January 1960

Growing imperialism during the 19th century resulted in the occupation of much of Oceania by European powers, and later Japan and the United States. Significant contributions to oceanographic knowledge were made by the voyages of HMS Beagle in the 1830s, with Charles Darwin aboard;[25] HMS Challenger during the 1870s;[26] the USS Tuscarora (1873–76);[27] and the German Gazelle (1874–76).[28]

TahitiDupetitThouars
Dupetit Thouars taking over Tahiti on 9 September 1842

In Oceania, France obtained a leading position as imperial power after making Tahiti and New Caledonia protectorates in 1842 and 1853 respectively.[29] After navy visits to Easter Island in 1875 and 1887, Chilean navy officer Policarpo Toro negotiated the incorporation of the island into Chile with native Rapanui in 1888. By occupying Easter Island, Chile joined the imperial nations.[30](p53) By 1900 nearly all Pacific islands were in control of Britain, France, United States, Germany, Japan, and Chile.[29]

Although the United States gained control of Guam and the Philippines from Spain in 1898,[31] Japan controlled most of the western Pacific by 1914 and occupied many other islands during World War II; however, by the end of that war, Japan was defeated and the U.S. Pacific Fleet was the virtual master of the ocean. The Japanese-ruled Northern Mariana Islands came under control of the United States.[32] Since the end of World War II, many former colonies in the Pacific have become independent states.

Geography

Iss007e10807
Sunset over the Pacific Ocean as seen from the International Space Station. Anvil tops of thunderclouds are also visible.

The Pacific separates Asia and Australia from the Americas. It may be further subdivided by the equator into northern (North Pacific) and southern (South Pacific) portions. It extends from the Antarctic region in the South to the Arctic in the north.[1] The Pacific Ocean encompasses approximately one-third of the Earth's surface, having an area of 165,200,000 km2 (63,800,000 sq mi)—significantly larger than Earth's entire landmass of some 150,000,000 km2 (58,000,000 sq mi).[33]

Extending approximately 15,500 km (9,600 mi) from the Bering Sea in the Arctic to the northern extent of the circumpolar Southern Ocean at 60°S (older definitions extend it to Antarctica's Ross Sea), the Pacific reaches its greatest east-west width at about 5°N latitude, where it stretches approximately 19,800 km (12,300 mi) from Indonesia to the coast of Colombia—halfway around the world, and more than five times the diameter of the Moon.[34] The lowest known point on Earth—the Mariana Trench—lies 10,911 m (35,797 ft; 5,966 fathoms) below sea level. Its average depth is 4,280 m (14,040 ft; 2,340 fathoms), putting the total water volume at roughly 710,000,000 km3 (170,000,000 cu mi).[1]

Due to the effects of plate tectonics, the Pacific Ocean is currently shrinking by roughly 2.5 cm (1 in) per year on three sides, roughly averaging 0.52 km2 (0.20 sq mi) a year. By contrast, the Atlantic Ocean is increasing in size.[35][36]

Along the Pacific Ocean's irregular western margins lie many seas, the largest of which are the Celebes Sea, Coral Sea, East China Sea (East Sea), Philippine Sea, Sea of Japan, South China Sea (South Sea), Sulu Sea, Tasman Sea, and Yellow Sea (West Sea of Korea). The Indonesian Seaway (including the Strait of Malacca and Torres Strait) joins the Pacific and the Indian Ocean to the west, and Drake Passage and the Strait of Magellan link the Pacific with the Atlantic Ocean on the east. To the north, the Bering Strait connects the Pacific with the Arctic Ocean.[37]

As the Pacific straddles the 180th meridian, the West Pacific (or western Pacific, near Asia) is in the Eastern Hemisphere, while the East Pacific (or eastern Pacific, near the Americas) is in the Western Hemisphere.[38]

The Southern Pacific Ocean harbors the Southeast Indian Ridge crossing from south of Australia turning into the Pacific-Antarctic Ridge (north of the South Pole) and merges with another ridge (south of South America) to form the East Pacific Rise which also connects with another ridge (south of North America) which overlooks the Juan de Fuca Ridge.

For most of Magellan's voyage from the Strait of Magellan to the Philippines, the explorer indeed found the ocean peaceful; however, the Pacific is not always peaceful. Many tropical storms batter the islands of the Pacific.[39] The lands around the Pacific Rim are full of volcanoes and often affected by earthquakes.[40] Tsunamis, caused by underwater earthquakes, have devastated many islands and in some cases destroyed entire towns.[41]

The Martin Waldseemüller map of 1507 was the first to show the Americas separating two distinct oceans.[42] Later, the Diogo Ribeiro map of 1529 was the first to show the Pacific at about its proper size.[43]

Bordering countries and territories

Pacific Basin Island Geography
The island geography of the Pacific Ocean Basin
Pacific Culture Areas
Regions, island nations and territories of Oceania

Sovereign nations

1 The status of Taiwan and China is disputed. For more information, see political status of Taiwan.

Territories

Landmasses and islands

South Tarawa from the air
Tarawa Atoll in the Republic of Kiribati

This ocean has most of the islands in the world. There are about 25,000 islands in the Pacific Ocean.[44][45][46] The islands entirely within the Pacific Ocean can be divided into three main groups known as Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia. Micronesia, which lies north of the equator and west of the International Date Line, includes the Mariana Islands in the northwest, the Caroline Islands in the center, the Marshall Islands to the east and the islands of Kiribati in the southeast.[47][48]

Melanesia, to the southwest, includes New Guinea, the world's second largest island after Greenland and by far the largest of the Pacific islands. The other main Melanesian groups from north to south are the Bismarck Archipelago, the Solomon Islands, Santa Cruz, Vanuatu, Fiji and New Caledonia.[49]

The largest area, Polynesia, stretching from Hawaii in the north to New Zealand in the south, also encompasses Tuvalu, Tokelau, Samoa, Tonga and the Kermadec Islands to the west, the Cook Islands, Society Islands and Austral Islands in the center, and the Marquesas Islands, Tuamotu, Mangareva Islands, and Easter Island to the east.[50]

Islands in the Pacific Ocean are of four basic types: continental islands, high islands, coral reefs and uplifted coral platforms. Continental islands lie outside the andesite line and include New Guinea, the islands of New Zealand, and the Philippines. Some of these islands are structurally associated with nearby continents. High islands are of volcanic origin, and many contain active volcanoes. Among these are Bougainville, Hawaii, and the Solomon Islands.[51]

The coral reefs of the South Pacific are low-lying structures that have built up on basaltic lava flows under the ocean's surface. One of the most dramatic is the Great Barrier Reef off northeastern Australia with chains of reef patches. A second island type formed of coral is the uplifted coral platform, which is usually slightly larger than the low coral islands. Examples include Banaba (formerly Ocean Island) and Makatea in the Tuamotu group of French Polynesia.[52][53]

Ladrilleros Beach Colombia

Ladrilleros Beach in Colombia on the coast of Chocó natural region

Tahuna maru islet Raroia

Tahuna maru islet, French Polynesia

Los Molinos

Los Molinos on the coast of Southern Chile

Water characteristics

The volume of the Pacific Ocean, representing about 50.1 percent of the world's oceanic water, has been estimated at some 714 million cubic kilometers (171 million cubic miles).[54] Surface water temperatures in the Pacific can vary from −1.4 °C (29.5 °F), the freezing point of sea water, in the poleward areas to about 30 °C (86 °F) near the equator.[55] Salinity also varies latitudinally, reaching a maximum of 37 parts per thousand in the southeastern area. The water near the equator, which can have a salinity as low as 34 parts per thousand, is less salty than that found in the mid-latitudes because of abundant equatorial precipitation throughout the year. The lowest counts of less than 32 parts per thousand are found in the far north as less evaporation of seawater takes place in these frigid areas.[56] The motion of Pacific waters is generally clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere (the North Pacific gyre) and counter-clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. The North Equatorial Current, driven westward along latitude 15°N by the trade winds, turns north near the Philippines to become the warm Japan or Kuroshio Current.[57]

Turning eastward at about 45°N, the Kuroshio forks and some water moves northward as the Aleutian Current, while the rest turns southward to rejoin the North Equatorial Current.[58] The Aleutian Current branches as it approaches North America and forms the base of a counter-clockwise circulation in the Bering Sea. Its southern arm becomes the chilled slow, south-flowing California Current.[59] The South Equatorial Current, flowing west along the equator, swings southward east of New Guinea, turns east at about 50°S, and joins the main westerly circulation of the South Pacific, which includes the Earth-circling Antarctic Circumpolar Current. As it approaches the Chilean coast, the South Equatorial Current divides; one branch flows around Cape Horn and the other turns north to form the Peru or Humboldt Current.[60]

Climate

El nino north american weather
Impact of El Niño and La Niña on North America
Typhoon tip peak
Typhoon Tip at global peak intensity on 12 October 1979

The climate patterns of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres generally mirror each other. The trade winds in the southern and eastern Pacific are remarkably steady while conditions in the North Pacific are far more varied with, for example, cold winter temperatures on the east coast of Russia contrasting with the milder weather off British Columbia during the winter months due to the preferred flow of ocean currents.[61]

In the tropical and subtropical Pacific, the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) affects weather conditions. To determine the phase of ENSO, the most recent three-month sea surface temperature average for the area approximately 3,000 km (1,900 mi) to the southeast of Hawaii is computed, and if the region is more than 0.5 °C (0.9 °F) above or below normal for that period, then an El Niño or La Niña is considered in progress.[62]

In the tropical western Pacific, the monsoon and the related wet season during the summer months contrast with dry winds in the winter which blow over the ocean from the Asian landmass.[63] Worldwide, tropical cyclone activity peaks in late summer, when the difference between temperatures aloft and sea surface temperatures is the greatest; however, each particular basin has its own seasonal patterns. On a worldwide scale, May is the least active month, while September is the most active month. November is the only month in which all the tropical cyclone basins are active.[64] The Pacific hosts the two most active tropical cyclone basins, which are the northwestern Pacific and the eastern Pacific. Pacific hurricanes form south of Mexico, sometimes striking the western Mexican coast and occasionally the southwestern United States between June and October, while typhoons forming in the northwestern Pacific moving into southeast and east Asia from May to December. Tropical cyclones also form in the South Pacific basin, where they occasionally impact island nations.

In the arctic, icing from October to May can present a hazard for shipping while persistent fog occurs from June to December.[65] A climatological low in the Gulf of Alaska keeps the southern coast wet and mild during the winter months. The Westerlies and associated jet stream within the Mid-Latitudes can be particularly strong, especially in the Southern Hemisphere, due to the temperature difference between the tropics and Antarctica,[66] which records the coldest temperature readings on the planet. In the Southern hemisphere, because of the stormy and cloudy conditions associated with extratropical cyclones riding the jet stream, it is usual to refer to the Westerlies as the Roaring Forties, Furious Fifties and Shrieking Sixties according to the varying degrees of latitude.[67]

Geology

Pacific Ring of Fire
Ring of Fire. The Pacific is ringed by many volcanoes and oceanic trenches.
Ulawun
Ulawun stratovolcano situated on the island of New Britain, Papua New Guinea

The ocean was first mapped by Abraham Ortelius; he called it Maris Pacifici following Ferdinand Magellan's description of it as "a pacific sea" during his circumnavigation from 1519 to 1522. To Magellan, it seemed much more calm (pacific) than the Atlantic.[68]

The andesite line is the most significant regional distinction in the Pacific. A petrologic boundary, it separates the deeper, mafic igneous rock of the Central Pacific Basin from the partially submerged continental areas of felsic igneous rock on its margins.[69] The andesite line follows the western edge of the islands off California and passes south of the Aleutian arc, along the eastern edge of the Kamchatka Peninsula, the Kuril Islands, Japan, the Mariana Islands, the Solomon Islands, and New Zealand's North Island.[70][71]

The dissimilarity continues northeastward along the western edge of the Andes Cordillera along South America to Mexico, returning then to the islands off California. Indonesia, the Philippines, Japan, New Guinea, and New Zealand lie outside the andesite line.

Within the closed loop of the andesite line are most of the deep troughs, submerged volcanic mountains, and oceanic volcanic islands that characterize the Pacific basin. Here basaltic lavas gently flow out of rifts to build huge dome-shaped volcanic mountains whose eroded summits form island arcs, chains, and clusters. Outside the andesite line, volcanism is of the explosive type, and the Pacific Ring of Fire is the world's foremost belt of explosive volcanism.[47] The Ring of Fire is named after the several hundred active volcanoes that sit above the various subduction zones.

The Pacific Ocean is the only ocean which is almost totally bounded by subduction zones. Only the Antarctic and Australian coasts have no nearby subduction zones.

Geological history

The Pacific Ocean was born 750 million years ago at the breakup of Rodinia, although it is generally called the Panthalassic Ocean until the breakup of Pangea, about 200 million years ago.[72] The oldest Pacific Ocean floor is only around 180 Ma old, with older crust subducted by now.[73]

Seamount chains

The Pacific Ocean contains several long seamount chains, formed by hotspot volcanism. These include the Hawaiian–Emperor seamount chain and the Louisville Ridge.

Economy

The exploitation of the Pacific's mineral wealth is hampered by the ocean's great depths. In shallow waters of the continental shelves off the coasts of Australia and New Zealand, petroleum and natural gas are extracted, and pearls are harvested along the coasts of Australia, Japan, Papua New Guinea, Nicaragua, Panama, and the Philippines, although in sharply declining volume in some cases.[74]

Fishing

Fish are an important economic asset in the Pacific. The shallower shoreline waters of the continents and the more temperate islands yield herring, salmon, sardines, snapper, swordfish, and tuna, as well as shellfish.[75] Overfishing has become a serious problem in some areas. For example, catches in the rich fishing grounds of the Okhotsk Sea off the Russian coast have been reduced by at least half since the 1990s as a result of overfishing.[76]

Environmental issues

Pacific-garbage-patch-map 2010 noaamdp
Pacific ocean currents have created 3 "islands" of debris.[77]

The quantity of small plastic fragments floating in the north-east Pacific Ocean increased a hundredfold between 1972 and 2012.[78] The ever-growing Great Pacific garbage patch between California and Japan is three times the size of France.[79] An estimated 80,000 metric tons of plastic inhabit the patch, totaling 1.8 trillion pieces.[80]

Marine pollution is a generic term for the harmful entry into the ocean of chemicals or particles. The main culprits are those using the rivers for disposing of their waste.[81] The rivers then empty into the ocean, often also bringing chemicals used as fertilizers in agriculture. The excess of oxygen-depleting chemicals in the water leads to hypoxia and the creation of a dead zone.[82]

Marine debris, also known as marine litter, is human-created waste that has ended up floating in a lake, sea, ocean, or waterway. Oceanic debris tends to accumulate at the center of gyres and coastlines, frequently washing aground where it is known as beach litter.[81]

From 1946 to 1958, Marshall Islands served as the Pacific Proving Grounds for the United States and was the site of 67 nuclear tests on various atolls.[83][84] Several nuclear weapons were lost in the Pacific Ocean,[85] including one-megaton bomb lost during the 1965 Philippine Sea A-4 incident.[86]

In addition, the Pacific Ocean has served as the crash site of satellites, including Mars 96, Fobos-Grunt, and Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite.

See also

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Further reading

Historiography

  • Davidson, James Wightman. "Problems of Pacific history." Journal of Pacific History 1#1 (1966): 5–21.
  • Gulliver, Katrina. "Finding the Pacific world." Journal of World History 22#1 (2011): 83–100. online
  • Igler, David (2013). The Great Ocean: Pacific Worlds from Captain Cook to the Gold Rush. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-991495-1.
  • Munro, Doug. The Ivory Tower and Beyond: Participant Historians of the Pacific (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).
  • Routledge, David. "Pacific history as seen from the Pacific Islands." Pacific Studies 8#2 (1985): 81+ online
  • Samson, Jane. "Pacific/Oceanic History" in Kelly Boyd, ed. (1999). Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing vol 2. Taylor & Francis. pp. 901–02. ISBN 978-1-884964-33-6.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)

External links

180th meridian

The 180th meridian or antimeridian is the meridian 180° both east and west of the Prime Meridian, with which it forms a great circle dividing the earth into the Western and Eastern Hemispheres. It is common to both east longitude and west longitude. It mostly passes through the open waters of the Pacific Ocean, but passes across land in Russia, Fiji and Antarctica. This meridian is used as the basis for the International Date Line, but the latter deviates from it to maintain date consistency within the territories of Russia, the United States, Kiribati, Fiji and New Zealand.

Starting at the North Pole and heading south to the South Pole, the 180th meridian passes through:

The meridian also passes between (but not particularly close to):

the Gilbert Islands and the Phoenix Islands of Kiribati

North Island and the Kermadec Islands of New Zealand

the Bounty Islands and the Chatham Islands, also of New ZealandThe only place where roads cross this meridian, and where there are buildings very close to it, is in Fiji.

Aleutian Islands

The Aleutian Islands (; Russian: Алеутские острова; Aleut: Tanam Unangaa, literally "Land of the Aleuts", possibly from Chukchi aliat, "island"), also called the Aleut Islands or Aleutic Islands and known before 1867 as the Catherine Archipelago, are a chain of 14 large volcanic islands and 55 smaller ones belonging to both the U.S. state of Alaska and the Russian federal subject of Kamchatka Krai. They form part of the Aleutian Arc in the Northern Pacific Ocean, occupying an area of 6,821 sq mi (17,666 km2) and extending about 1,200 mi (1,900 km) westward from the Alaska Peninsula toward the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia, and mark a dividing line between the Bering Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. Crossing longitude 180°, at which point east and west longitude end, the archipelago contains both the westernmost part of the United States by longitude (Amatignak Island) and the easternmost by longitude (Semisopochnoi Island). The westernmost U.S. island in real terms, however, is Attu Island, west of which runs the International Date Line. While nearly all the archipelago is part of Alaska and is usually considered as being in the "Alaskan Bush", at the extreme western end, the small, geologically related Commander Islands belong to Russia.

The islands, with their 57 volcanoes, form the northernmost part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. Physiographically, they are a distinct section of the larger Pacific Border province, which in turn is part of the larger Pacific Mountain System physiographic division.

These Islands are most known for the battles and skirmishes that occurred there during the Aleutian Islands Campaign of World War II. The Japanese landings and occupations of Kiska and Attu in June 1942 were the only two invasions of the United States during that war.

Bering Sea

The Bering Sea (Russian: Бе́рингово мо́ре, tr. Béringovo móre) is a marginal sea of the Pacific Ocean. It forms, along with the Bering Strait, the divide between the two largest landmasses on Earth: Eurasia and The Americas. It comprises a deep water basin, which then rises through a narrow slope into the shallower water above the continental shelves.

The Bering Sea is separated from the Gulf of Alaska by the Alaska Peninsula. It covers over 2,000,000 square kilometers (770,000 sq mi) and is bordered on the east and northeast by Alaska, on the west by Russian Far East and the Kamchatka Peninsula, on the south by the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutian Islands and on the far north by the Bering Strait, which connects the Bering Sea to the Arctic Ocean's Chukchi Sea. Bristol Bay is the portion of the Bering Sea which separates the Alaska Peninsula from mainland Alaska. The Bering Sea is named for Vitus Bering, a Danish navigator in Russian service, who in 1728 was the first European to systematically explore it, sailing from the Pacific Ocean northward to the Arctic Ocean.

The Bering Sea ecosystem includes resources within the jurisdiction of the United States and Russia, as well as international waters in the middle of the sea (known as the "Donut Hole"). The interaction between currents, sea ice, and weather makes for a vigorous and productive ecosystem.

Great Pacific garbage patch

The Great Pacific garbage patch, also described as the Pacific trash vortex, is a gyre of marine debris particles in the north central Pacific Ocean. It is located roughly from 135°W to 155°W and 35°N to 42°N. The collection of plastic and floating trash originates from the Pacific Rim, including countries in Asia, North America, and South America. The patch is actually "two enormous masses of ever-growing garbage". What has been referred to as the "Eastern Garbage Patch" lies between Hawaii and California, while the "Western Garbage Patch" extends eastward from Japan to the Hawaiian Islands. An ocean current about 6,000 miles long, referred to as the Subtropical Convergence Zone, connects the two patches, which extend over an indeterminate area of widely varying range, depending on the degree of plastic concentration used to define the affected area. The vortex is characterized by exceptionally high relative pelagic concentrations of plastic, chemical sludge, wood pulp, and other debris trapped by the currents of the North Pacific Gyre.Despite the common public perception of the patch existing as giant islands of floating rubbish, its low density (4 particles per cubic meter) prevents detection by satellite imagery, or even by casual boaters or divers in the area. This is because the patch is a widely dispersed area consisting primarily of suspended "fingernail-sized or smaller bits of plastic", often microscopic, particles in the upper water column. Researchers from The Ocean Cleanup project claimed that the patch covers 1.6 million square kilometers. The plastic concentration is estimated to be up to 100 kilograms per square kilometer in the center, going down to 10 kilograms per square kilometer in the outer parts of the patch. An estimated 80,000 metric tons of plastic inhabit the patch, totaling 1.8 trillion pieces. 92% of the mass in the patch comes from objects larger than 0.5 centimeters, while 94% of the total objects are represented by microplastics.Some of the plastic in the patch has been found to be over 50 years old, and includes fragments of and items such as "plastic lighters, toothbrushes, water bottles, pens, baby bottles, cell phones, plastic bags, and nurdles". It is estimated that approximately "100 million tons of plastic are generated [globally] each year", and about 10% of that plastic ends up in the oceans. The United Nations Environmental Program recently estimated that "for every square mile of ocean", there are about "46,000 pieces of plastic". The small fibers of wood pulp found throughout the patch are "believed to originate from the thousands of tons of toilet paper flushed into the oceans daily". The patch is believed to have increased "10-fold each decade" since 1945.Research indicates that the patch is rapidly accumulating. A similar patch of floating plastic debris is found in the Atlantic Ocean, called the North Atlantic garbage patch.

Guadalcanal

Guadalcanal (; indigenous name: Isatabu) is the principal island in Guadalcanal Province of the nation of Solomon Islands, located in the south-western Pacific, northeast of Australia. The island is mainly covered in dense tropical rainforest and has a mountainous interior.

Guadalcanal's discovery by westerners was under the Spanish expedition of Álvaro de Mendaña in 1568. The name comes from the village of Guadalcanal, in the province of Seville, in Andalusia, Spain, birthplace of Pedro de Ortega Valencia, a member of Mendaña's expedition.

During 1942–43, it was the scene of the Guadalcanal Campaign and saw bitter fighting between Japanese and US troops. The Americans were ultimately victorious. At the end of World War II, Honiara, on the north coast of Guadalcanal, became the new capital of the British Solomon Islands Protectorate.

Gulf of Alaska

The Gulf of Alaska (French: Golfe d'Alaska) is an arm of the Pacific Ocean defined by the curve of the southern coast of Alaska, stretching from the Alaska Peninsula and Kodiak Island in the west to the Alexander Archipelago in the east, where Glacier Bay and the Inside Passage are found.

The Gulf shoreline is a rugged combination of forest, mountain and a number of tidewater glaciers. Alaska's largest glaciers, the Malaspina Glacier and Bering Glacier, spill out onto the coastal line along the Gulf of Alaska. The coast is heavily indented with Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound, the two largest connected bodies of water. It includes Yakutat Bay and Cross Sound. Lituya Bay (a fijord north of Cross Sound, and south of Mount Fairweather) is the site of the largest recorded tsunami in history. It serves as a sheltered anchorage for fishing boats.

Hawaiian Islands

The Hawaiian Islands (Hawaiian: Mokupuni o Hawai‘i) are an archipelago of eight major islands, several atolls, numerous smaller islets, and seamounts in the North Pacific Ocean, extending some 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) from the island of Hawaiʻi in the south to northernmost Kure Atoll. Formerly the group was known to Europeans and Americans as the Sandwich Islands, a name chosen by James Cook in honor of the then First Lord of the Admiralty John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich. The contemporary name is derived from the name of the largest island, Hawaii Island.

Although Hawaii is now a U.S. state, it is only a part of the U.S. politically and not geographically connected to North America. The state of Hawaii occupies the archipelago almost in its entirety (including the uninhabited Northwestern Hawaiian Islands), with the sole exception of Midway Island, which instead separately belongs to the United States as one of its unincorporated territories within the United States Minor Outlying Islands.

The Hawaiian Islands are the exposed peaks of a great undersea mountain range known as the Hawaiian–Emperor seamount chain, formed by volcanic activity over a hotspot in the Earth's mantle. The islands are about 1,860 miles (3,000 km) from the nearest continent.

Heteropsammia

Heteropsammia is a genus of apozooxanthellate corals that belong to the family Dendrophylliidae.

Indo-Pacific

The Indo-Pacific, sometimes known as the Indo-West Pacific or Indo-Pacific Asia, is a biogeographic region of Earth's seas, comprising the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean, the western and central Pacific Ocean, and the seas connecting the two in the general area of Indonesia. It does not include the temperate and polar regions of the Indian and Pacific oceans, nor the Tropical Eastern Pacific, along the Pacific coast of the Americas, which is also a distinct marine realm.

The term is especially useful in marine biology, ichthyology, and similar fields, since many marine habitats are continuously connected from Madagascar to Japan and Oceania, and a number of species occur over that range, but are not found in the Atlantic Ocean.

The region has an exceptionally high species richness, including 3000 species of fish, compared with around 1200 in the next richest marine region, the Western Atlantic, and around 500 species of reef building corals, compared with about 50 species in the Western Atlantic.

Line Islands

The Line Islands, Teraina Islands or Equatorial Islands, is a chain of atolls (with partially or fully enclosed lagoons) and coral islands (with a surrounding reef). Kingman Reef is largely submerged and Filippo Reef is shown on some maps, although its existence is doubted. The islands were formed by volcanic activity and are located in the central Pacific Ocean, south of the Hawaiian Islands. The 11 islands stretch for 2,350 kilometres (1,460 miles) in a northwest–southeast direction, making it one of the longest island chains of the world. Eight of the islands form part of Kiribati, while the remaining three (Kingman Reef, Palmyra Island and Jarvis Island) are United States territories grouped with the United States Minor Outlying Islands. Only Kiritimati and Tabuaeran atolls and Teraina Island have a permanent population.

The International Date Line passes through the Line Islands. The Line Islands that are part of Kiribati are in the world's farthest forward time zone, UTC+14:00. The time of day is the same as in the U.S. state of Hawaii, but the date is one day ahead. The time is 1 day and 2 hours ahead of some other islands in Oceania like Baker Island, which uses UTC−12:00.

List of islands in the Pacific Ocean

The Pacific Islands are the islands of the Pacific Ocean. Three major groups of islands in the Pacific Ocean are Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. Depending on the context, Pacific Islands may refer to countries and islands with common Austronesian origins, islands once or currently colonized or Oceania. The indigenous inhabitants of the Pacific Islands are referred to as Pacific Islanders. This is a list of many of the major Pacific islands, organized by archipelago or political unit. In order to keep this list of moderate size, links are given to more complete lists for countries with large numbers of small or uninhabited islands.

Melanesia

Melanesia (UK: , US: ) is a subregion of Oceania extending from New Guinea island in the southwestern Pacific Ocean to the Arafura Sea, and eastward to Tonga.

The region includes the four independent countries of Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea, as well as the French special collectivity of New Caledonia, and the Indonesian region of Western New Guinea. Most of the region is in the Southern Hemisphere, with a few small northwestern islands of Western New Guinea in the Northern Hemisphere.

The name Melanesia (in French Mélanésie) was first used by Jules Dumont d'Urville in 1832 to denote an ethnic and geographical grouping of islands whose inhabitants he thought were distinct from those of Micronesia and Polynesia.

Pacific Ocean Areas

Pacific Ocean Areas was a major Allied military command in the Pacific Ocean theater of World War II. It was one of four major Allied commands during the Pacific War, and one of three United States commands in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater. Admiral Chester W. Nimitz of the U.S. Navy, Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet, headed the command throughout its existence.

The vast majority of Allied forces in the theatre were from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps. However units and/or personnel from New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Fiji and other countries also saw active service.

Pacific Ocean theater of World War II

The Pacific Ocean theater, during World War II, was a major theater of the war between the Allies and the Axis.Most Japanese forces in the theater were part of the Combined Fleet (連合艦隊, Rengō Kantai) of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN), which was responsible for all Japanese warships, naval aircraft, and marine infantry units. The Rengō Kantai was led by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, until he was killed in an attack by U.S. fighter planes in April 1943. Yamamoto was succeeded by Admiral Mineichi Koga (1943–44) and Admiral Soemu Toyoda (1944–45). The General Staff (参謀本部, Sanbō Honbu) of the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) was responsible for Imperial Japanese Army ground and air units in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific. The IJN and IJA did not formally use joint/combined staff at the operational level, and their command structures/geographical areas of operations overlapped with each other and those of the Allies.

In the Pacific Ocean theater, Japanese forces fought primarily against the United States Navy, the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Army. The United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and other Allied nations also contributed forces.

Pacific Plate

The Pacific Plate is an oceanic tectonic plate that lies beneath the Pacific Ocean. At 103 million square kilometres (40,000,000 sq mi), it is the largest tectonic plate.The Pacific Plate contains an interior hot spot forming the Hawaiian Islands.Hillis and Müller are reported to consider the Bird's Head Plate to be moving in unison with the Pacific Plate. Bird considers them to be unconnected.

Pacific Rim

The Pacific Rim comprises the lands around the rim of the Pacific Ocean. The Pacific Basin includes the Pacific Rim and the islands in the Pacific Ocean. The Pacific Rim roughly overlaps with the geologic Pacific Ring of Fire.

Pacific coast

A country's Pacific coast is the part of its coast bordering the Pacific Ocean.

Solomon Sea

The Solomon Sea is a sea located within the Pacific Ocean. It lies between Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Many major battles were fought there during World War II.

West Coast of the United States

The West Coast or Pacific Coast is the coastline along which the continental Western United States meets the North Pacific Ocean. As a region, this term most often refers to the coastal states of California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. More specifically, it refers to an area defined on the east by the Alaska Range, Cascade Range, Sierra Nevada, and Mojave Desert, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean. The United States Census groups the five states of California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii together as the Pacific States division.

Earth's primary regions

Languages

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