Oceans: Facts & Information

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  • 0:00 Oceans Defined
  • 1:00 Physical Properties
  • 5:45 Amazing Fun Facts
  • 6:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Honey Whitney
Over fifty percent of the world's population lives near a coastline. The oceans of the world affect our everyday lives, from recreation to resources, to climate. Learn some fun facts about this unique feature of our planet!

Oceans Defined

One of the most beloved summer pastimes for many is spending the day at the beach. Making sand castles, splashing around in the waves, and eating too much watermelon are often the highlights of these trips. This place of enjoyment showcases one of the most unique and important features on planet Earth -- the ocean.

Map of the major oceans of the world
Map of the world oceans

About 71% of the Earth is covered by oceans, or large bodies of salt water. The oceans are the main ingredient of the hydrosphere, 'hydro' meaning water, and make up 97% of Earth's water resources, with the other 3 percent residing in frozen ice caps and glaciers. The ocean has a mass of about 1,400 quadrillion metric tons, which is approximately 0.023% of the total mass of the Earth. Even though people have always been fascinated by the world's oceans, we have only explored less than five percent of it. Luckily, scientists from all over are working tirelessly to figure out the mysteries of the other 95%.

Physical Properties

Although there is a large gap in knowledge about the curiosities of the deep blue sea, there are a few things that we have learned about it through some cool science. Some of the most basic and important things to know are about the physical properties that influence everything, from weather patterns to what fish can be found swimming around. These physical properties include light, temperature, depth, pressure, and salinity.

Different zones in the ocean
Zones of the ocean

Light and Zonation

Though it is a continuous body of water, there are multiple ways that the oceans can be divided into sections. Most commonly, the ocean in its entirety is called the World Ocean and is split up into five parts, Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Southern, and Arctic, based on geographic location. When specifically studying sea life and where they live, the ocean is divided into the benthic zone, near the sediment bottom, and the pelagic zone, in the open ocean.

One of the most important factors in the ocean system is light, because it controls primary production, which occurs when organisms convert water and nutrients into energy using sunlight in a process called photosynthesis. These organisms, which are usually algae and are known as primary producers, make up the basis of the food chain in the oceans. The photic zone is the upper 200 meters of the ocean and it's here that most primary producers, and things that eat them, live. From 200 to 1,000 meters of depth exists the mid-water zone, where very little light penetrates and some organisms live. The aphotic zone is anything more than 1,000 meters deep and is completely pitch black.

Depth and Pressure

Most of the sea floor is still unmapped, but by using satellite data and fancy math, scientists managed to map the rough characteristics of the bottom. Most of the ocean is very deep, with the average depth at 3,790 meters. The deepest part of the ocean resides in the Marianas Trench in the Pacific Ocean, with a maximum depth of 10,911 meters--that's almost seven miles down!

If you have ever dove down while swimming or have been scuba diving, you know that you need to pop your ears. This is necessary because the change in pressure squeezes your air-filled middle ear. At the surface of the ocean, pressure is 1 atmosphere (atm); the deeper you go into the ocean the more pressure there is. For example, at the bottom of the Marianas Trench, the feeling of the amount of pressure, which is 1,100 atmospheres, is equivalent to turning the Eiffel Tower upside down and balancing its point on your big toe. Despite this enormous amount of pressure, there are a multitude of interesting deep-sea organisms that live in this high-pressure, cold, pitch-black environment, most of which look like the stuff of nightmares.

The Pacific Viperfish, a deep-sea organism
Head of deep sea Pacific Viperfish

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