Learn More about the Atlantic Ocean

With an area measuring 106,460,000 square kilometers or 41,100,000 square miles, the Atlantic Ocean is the world’s second-largest. Its surface area translates to about 20% of the earth’s surface. Additionally, it accounts for  29% of the globe’s water surface area.

If we consider the Mediterranean Sea as part of the Atlantic, then it stretches past the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, ending eastwards push along the Longitude 35 degrees east of the Prime Meridian.

The ocean separates the New World from the Old World.  It is elongated and shaped like an S. Its length stretches from Europe, past west of the African continent all the way to the Southern Ocean. The 60 degrees latitude south of the equator marks its boundary with the Southern Ocean. East to west it stretched from the eastern part of the Americas to the western part of Europe and Africa and northeast of Antarctica

It’s separated from the Indian Ocean in the northeast by the Mediterranean. The African continent separates it from the Indian Ocean in the east. In the west, the Atlantic Ocean is separated from the Pacific Ocean by America’s (both North and South America)

Southwards, it is separated from the Indian Ocean in its east by an imaginary line stretching southwards from Cape Agulhas to the 60 degrees latitude south of the equator. Cape Agulhas is South Africa’s and the continent’s southernmost point, while the 60 degrees latitude marks the boundary between the Atlantic and Indian oceans’ boundary with the Southern Ocean.

The Atlantic Ocean interconnected the world’s Oceans. The Arctic Ocean connects both the Atlantic and the Pacific. The Equator and the subsequent Equatorial Current divided the Atlantic Ocean to Northern and Southern portions known as North or Northern Atlantic as well as South or Southern Atlantic Ocean.

What in a Name?

The Greeks

The name Atlantic was first used around mid-600 BC by the Greeks. The name used was Atlantikôi pelágei to mean the Atlantic Sea. It was mentioned in The Histories of Herodotus approximately 450 Before the Birth of Christ, where the Greek phrase, Atlantis thalassa meaning ‘the Atlantis Sea’ was used in a document. The word sea was used to mean the sea beyond the pillars of Heracles, meaning a sea that surrounded the entire earth’s land area. The Greeks connected the Atlantic to refer to the name Atlas, the Titan in Greek Mythology.

The Titans were former Greek gods who were Olympians, in Greek mythology and were overthrown in the Greeks Succession myth. The overthrow was by Cronus who took power from Uranus; his father and ruled the universe, with the defeated Titans as his subordinates who he later banished from the upper world but remained free. Titan was supposed to be the one who supported the Heavens.

In the subsequent medieval maps, the name was used and carried forward and used by the modern cartographers. The Greeks also used the name Oceanus in their ancient literature to mean a very huge river that surrounded the land all over the world. The Greeks used the term to differentiate the huge river from their already known Mediterranean and the Black seas.

Recent Use of the Name

Initially, the name Atlantic was used just for the Atlas Mountains of North Africa’s Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, the North African Coast, and the Strait of Gibraltar. Consequently, the Greek word Panthalassa is the ocean that surrounded the supercontinent Pangaea hundreds of millions of years ago.

Furthermore, the   Aethiopian Ocean was used in ancient Ethiopia to refer to the Southern Atlantic until recently; in the mid-1800s. In the Ages of Discovery, the English map makers referred to the Atlantic as the Great Western Ocean. A term used even today by English speakers as far as in America. 

The name Atlantic Ocean was first used in 1640 in printed materials in form of pamphlets during the Era of Charles I. The use of the term The Pond was revisited by the Englishman Nehemiah Wallington in 1869.

Nehemiah Wallington was a Puritan artist as well as a woodturner. He wrote so many articles of his days including those of the execution of King Charles I. Charles I the king of England, Scotland, and Wales England’s Civil War. Charles was executed by the Parliamentarians.

Nehemiah Wallington’s writings Historical Notices of Events Occurring Chiefly in The Reign of Charles I,  made use of the term The Pond. The term The Pond was used by the unfortunate Charles I Secretary of State; Sir Francis Windebank to mean the Atlantic Ocean.

Major Atlantic Ocean’s Features

The Atlantic Ocean home to many features including islands, seamounts, ridges, trenches, basins among other features.

The most notable feature is the Mid Atlantic Ridge. Close to Africa and in South Atlantic there two basins. These are the Cape Basin and the Angola Basin. Additionally, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge lies some distance from the continent stretching from south to north past the equator.

The North Atlantic starts from the equator. In this section of the ocean, major features include the Gulf of Guinea, Bight of Benin, and Guinea Basin.

The Atlantic Ocean is home to two African island nations. These are Central Africa’s São Tomé and Príncipe and Cape Verde in West Africa. Furthermore, the ocean is home to the following dependencies:

  • North Atlantic
    • Spanish Canary Islands
    • Portuguese Madeira Islands
  • South Atlantic
    • The British Overseas Territory made by Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha

Major Atlantic Ocean’s Scientific Researches

The ocean has been studied extensively. Some of the most notable scientific researches include:

  • The Challenger Expedition
  • The German Meteor expedition 
  • Columbia University
  • Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
  • United States Navy Hydrographic Office

The Challenger Expedition

The Challenger Expedition took place between 1872 and 1876 and one of the initial scientific programs and formed the basis of modern oceanography and was carried out by HMS Challenger a British naval vessel.

During the Challenger expedition, it had 243 officers, scientists as well as the crew. The expedition and took 68,890, this is equal to nautical miles or  127,580 kilometers.  Simply put it a 79,280 miles trip. In addition, the expedition circumnavigated the globe.

Besides, the team made 492 deep-sea soundings and 133 bottom dredges. They took 263 serial water temperature observations and discovered 4,700 new marine species.

The trip was sponsored by the Royal Society, in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh.  This research was an idea of Charles Wyville Thomson who headed the team. Another team leader was Captain George Nares.

The trip took off from Portsmouth, England, and started on the 21st of December, 1872. The research discovered 4,000 previously unknown species. The ship went southward, close to Antarctica, but did not manage to get its sight.

Notable people in the Challenger Expedition Vice-Admiral were:

  • Sir George Strong Nares captained the ship through the Suez Cana and led the ship from 1873 and 1874.
  • Sir Charles Wyville Thomson was the lead scientist from 1875 to 1876
  • Others include naturalists; Briton, Henry Nottidge Moseley, and German Rudolf von Willemoes-Suhm.
  • Others included John Young Buchanan and John Murray, both Scottish Oceanographers.

The German Meteor expedition 


The German Meteor expedition is also known as Deutsche Atlantik Expedition in German was a second major Oceanography expedition after the Challenger expedition of the 1870s. This one did not circumnavigate the world but explored the South Atlantic, south of the equatorial region all the way to Antarctica, and was from 1925 and 1927. The expeditions took place between latitude 200 and 650 south of the Equator. The chief oceanographer was Georg Adolf Otto Wüst.

This time the depth sounding, water temperatures as well as water samples. Besides, studies of marine life as well as carried out atmospheric observation.  The vessel used was Meteor which left the Wilhelmshaven, a seaport in Lower Saxony; Germany. The journey started on the the16th of April 1925 and made zigzag trips between Africa and South America. These several trips between the two continents first started from Germany, first went first to Argentina’s Buenos Aires.

The expedition

The first trip was between South America to Cape Town; the ship sailed slightly northwards along the African Coast. From there it sailed westwards to South America between Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires. The ship then sailed southwards to the Falklands Island and embarked on another trip to Cape Town but close to Antarctica, then heading northwards to Cape Town. From Cape Town, the ship sailed back to Buenos Aires. The third trip to Africa started in Buenos Aires, sailing southwards and near the South America Coast to the Cabo San Diego, the southern tip of the continent. The German Meteor expedition team went further south to the islands

The team got back to Wilhelmshaven in Germany on the 2nd of June, 1927. In the end, the expedition covered 67,000 nautical miles, which is equivalent to 124,000 kilometers or 77,000 miles. In the expedition, they came across a seamount which they named Meteor Bank.

During the expedition, the team made 67,000 depth soundings with sonars and launched over 800 weather observation balloons.  The expedition took 512 days sailing and they managed to create 310 observation points.

It was in this expedition that the mid-Atlantic ridge was established to be a continuous feature through the Southern Atlantic and gets into the Indian Ocean going past the Cape of Good Hope.

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