The Earth's Oceans, Seas & Gulfs

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

After watching this video, you will be able to explain what oceans, seas and gulfs are and point out some of the most well-known ones on a world map. A short quiz will follow. Updated: 10/27/2020

Oceans, Seas and Gulfs

The Earth has been described as the 'blue planet' - a blue dot in space. That's because while there is a lot of land here, there is far more water. Seventy-one percent of the Earth's surface is covered by water, and it is vital for all life on Earth. Without water, we wouldn't exist. Neither would the plants or the animals. Maybe somewhere in the universe life exists that doesn't need water, but right now, we can't imagine how that would be possible.

Water is everything, and water on Earth is mostly found in the oceans, seas and gulfs. But what are oceans, seas and gulfs?

An ocean is 'a very large expanse of seawater, especially between continents'. A sea, on the other hand, is 'any expanse of salt water'. But why do we call some things 'oceans' and some things 'seas'? Well, that's usually determined by the land. If the water is partially enclosed by land, it's usually called a 'sea', and if it isn't very enclosed, it's considered an 'ocean'. A gulf is 'a deep inlet of the sea almost surrounded by land, with a narrow mouth'. A gulf is mostly enclosed by land, but a sea is not quite so enclosed. However, unfortunately, this isn't an exact science - there area seas, like the Black Sea, for example, that are completely enclosed. As usual, humans aren't always very consistent.

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Coming up next: Active & Passive Continental Margins

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  • 0:02 Oceans, Seas and Gulfs
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Naming & Locating Bodies of Water

It's important to be able to name and locate all the major bodies of water on a world map. So, let's go through them, starting with the oceans.

The Atlantic Ocean can be found between North America and Europe/Africa. And the Pacific Ocean lies between North America and Asia. The Arctic Ocean is in the north, and the Southern Ocean is in the south. Then, last of all, there's the Indian Ocean, south of India. Those are the biggest named bodies of water in the world.

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