About the Atlantic Ocean

sailing into the sunset Since we're in the process of crossing the Atlantic, I thought it might be interesting to learn a bit more about this particular ocean. It's the second largest ocean (after the Pacific) and covers about 20% of the Earth's surface. Size-wise, it's roughly equivalent to 6.5 times the size of the USA.

north and south atlantic

The Atlantic Ocean's name derives from Greek mythology referring to Atlas the Titan. The Greeks originally considered any waters beyond the Strait of Gibraltar as Atlantis thalassa, in English, the Sea of Atlas, i.e. the Atlantic. According to Wiki, the oldest recorded reference to the “Atlantic” is mentioned in The Histories of Herodotus c. 450BC. If you remember your Greek myths, Atlas was the fellow who carried the world on his shoulders for eternity. Incidentally, the early Greeks believed that the “ocean” was an enormous river which encircled the world.

atlas the titan

There's a submarine mountain range known as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge which extends from Iceland in the north to South Georgia Island in the south, dividing two major basins, with an average depth of  nearly 11,000' (3,340m) deep. The deepest part of the Atlantic at 28,000' (8600m) is the Milwaukee Deep near Puerto Rico. The jagged light blue line stretching vertically in this satellite image clearly shows the Mid Atlantic Ridge.

mid atlantic ridge

The Atlantic is the second youngest of the five oceans formed when the super-continent Pangea separated and the area between the newly formed continents filled with water … now the mighty Atlantic. You can see how Africa fits so nicely with South America … like a puzzle piece.

pangea gif

Though Leif Erikson is remembered as the first explorer to reach North America more than 500 years before Columbus, it was the crossing of the Atlantic by later European explorers in the Age of Discovery that was key to the development and expansion of Western civilization into the Americas.  After all, it's the Atlantic Ocean that separates the "Old World" from the "New World". Our British cruising friends always refer to crossing the Atlantic as “heading across the pond”. I read that the term “Black Atlantic” referred to the extensive Atlantic slave trade and the term “Green Atlantic” was coined to describe the Irish migration to the USA. Incidentally, it's no surprise that the Atlantic was the first ocean to be crossed by both a ship and an airplane.

So there you have it in a nutshell … all you never wanted nor needed to know about the Atlantic in one short blog post. I've obviously got quite a bit of time on my hands during this passage, huh?