One of the most famous of all oceans in this world, the Atlantic Ocean grabs the second position in terms of the largest ocean that this Earth has to offer. The ocean’s unique placement makes it one of the most sought-after oceans when it comes to fishing. Not to mention, it is this ocean that gives this world the beautiful Mediterranean Sea and Caribbean Sea. In this article on Atlantic Ocean facts we are going to learn a lot about this massive water body. Some of them are technical and albeit boring but some others are truly surprising. Finally, in the last 20 points, we will explore some really fun facts about this ocean. Ready? Let’s start.
Atlantic Ocean Facts: 1-5
1. Atlantic Ocean is the second largest ocean after the Pacific Ocean. It has a surface area of 106, 460,000 square kilometers or 41,100,000 square miles. 23.5% of the Earth’s surface area (20% as per Wikipedia) is covered by Atlantic Ocean. Its basin is elongated and S shaped. It is present between Africa and Eurasia to the east, North and South America to the west.
2. It is a global ocean i.e., it is connected with every other ocean. It is connected to the Arctic Ocean from the North, Pacific Ocean from the Southwest, Indian Ocean from the Southeast and Antarctic Ocean (or Southern Ocean) from the South.
3. The Equatorial Counter Current or the North Equatorial Counter Current (eastward moving current) divides the Atlantic Ocean into North Atlantic Ocean and South Atlantic Ocean at 8 degrees North.
4. The word Atlantic was mentioned for the first time by Stesichorus in mid-6th century (the Greek word for Atlantic is Atlantikos). It was also mentioned in The Histories of Herodotus in around 450 BCE (the Greek word for Atlantic is Atlantis thalassa). Atlantic word seems to arise from either of the two sources. One says that Atlantic word originated from Greek Mythology’s Titan, Atlas. While the other says that the word originated from the Atlas Mountains present in Africa.
5. South Atlantic Ocean was called as Aethiopian Ocean till the mid nineteenth century. English cartographers often called Atlantic Ocean as Great Western Ocean during the Age of Discovery (time when European explorations were at peak).
Atlantic Ocean Facts: 6-10
6. Atlantic Ocean connects with Arctic Ocean through Greenland Sea, Denmark Strait, Barents Sea and Norwegian Sea. It has many seas, gulfs, bays etc. because of its irregular coasts. Some of the water bodies include Barents Sea, Baltic Sea, Caribbean Sea, Black Sea, Drake Passage, Davis Strait, Gulf of Mexico, Mediterranean Sea, Denmark Strait etc.
7. Did you know the coastline of Atlantic Ocean is 111,866 kilometers or 69,510 miles, which is smaller to the Pacific Ocean just by 23,797 kilometers or 14,787 miles?
8. Of the total surface area of 106,460,000 square kilometers or 41,000,000 square miles of the Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic Ocean covers an area of 41,490,000 square kilometers or 16,020,000 square miles. South Atlantic Ocean covers an area of 40,270,000 square kilometers or 15,550,000 square miles.
9. On an average the depth of Atlantic Ocean is 3,646 meters or 11,962 feet. Milwaukee Deep present in the Puerto Rico Trench is the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean. Its depth is 8,466 meters or 27,841 feet.
10. There is a great variation in the breadth of the ocean. Atlantic Ocean has the largest drainage area. It receives water from a lot of rivers and seas because from both the sides of the ocean, the continents slope towards it. Some of the rivers that empty themselves in Atlantic Ocean are Mississippi, Rhine, Nile etc.
Atlantic Ocean Facts: 11-15
11. There is something called mid-Atlantic Ridge. It is a mountain range which is present across the Atlantic Ocean (lengthwise). And breadthwise, it is 1000 miles or 1600 kilometers approximately. It is a part of oceanic ridge (a mountain range which is seen in all oceanic basins encircling all the continents).
12. There are basins on the East and West sides of the mid-Atlantic Ridge about 12,00-18,000 feet or 3,700-5,500 meters below sea level. Some of the parts of the basin floor are mountainous, others are smooth. The mountainous parts are called as abyssal hills and the flat stretches of the basin floor are called abyssal plains.
13. There are large and ancient volcanoes present in the basins. Some of the volcanic areas rise to form seamounts (mountains which are underwater) and islands rarely.
14. When approaching towards the continents, the Continental rise – a smooth undulating surface of the ocean bed – is observed. It starts where the abyssal plains end. Their width varies extremely like the width near the northwest Africa, Argentina, east side of USA is nearly 500 kilometers or 300 miles and in some areas the width is too low. The average depth of the continental rise is 8,000 to 15,000 feet or 2,400 to 4,500 meters.
15. Deposition of the sediments from river, soil erosion and weathering resulted in formation of the continental rises. It is typical of Atlantic Ocean. It is at this place at a depth of 10,000-50,000 feet or 3,000-15,000 meters, petroleum, natural gas etc. are found.
Atlantic Ocean Facts: 16-20
16. There are many islands present in the Atlantic Ocean. They are divided into 3 categories.
- Pure oceanic islands – These are formed because of the action of volcanoes and usually don’t have the continental foundation. Examples: Iceland, St. Helena, Azores, Bouvet, Gough etc.
- Volcanic islands – These are islands formed by the activity of volcanoes on the seabed. Examples: Lesser Antilles, South Sandwich Islands, Greater Antilles (partly volcanic and partly oceanic) etc.
- Pure continental islands – parts of the continental shelf which are not submerged and surrounded by water. Examples: British Isles, Falkland Islands, Greenland etc.
17. As far as the origins of Atlantic Ocean is concerned, one of the theories state that Pangea (protocontinent) started breaking away at the Central Atlantic (between Northwest Africa and North America). It happened during the late Triassic and early Jurassic era (between 200 to 170 million years ago). The Atlas Mountains were getting uplifted during this time.
18. The Atlantic Ocean’s formation coincided with the breaking away of Pangea (protocontinent). These two incidents occurred due to the eruption of Central Atlantic Magmatic Province (CAMP – led to lava flows and is generally associated with Triassic-Jurassic extinction).
19. Around 2.8 million years ago, by the end of Pliocene, the Central American Seaway was close of formation of the Central American Isthmus. As a result of this either migration or extinction of many land animals took place. Closure of the Central American Seaway led to many changes in the salinity, ocean currents and temperatures in Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. South Atlantic was formed when west Gondwana was divided into South America and Africa. This happened in the early Cretaceous period.
20. The Pangea break-up theory leading to formation of Atlantic Ocean is widely accepted because the coastlines of North America and South America on the west and Europe and Africa on the east almost match. There are paleontological and geological similarities among the continents as well to further strengthen the theory.
Atlantic Ocean Facts: 21-25
21. Did you know that the basin of Atlantic Ocean is widening nearly 4 inches or 10 centimeters every year? The average rate of such widening is only 1 inch. Mid Atlantic Ridge is widely studied topic even today and many sub-theories are being put forward to explain effects of heat loss, dynamics of the ocean at large scale etc.
22. The deposits at the bottom are usually calcareous deposits which are made up of calcium carbonate. As the depth increases, the red clay takes the place of calcareous deposits.
23. The temperature of the surface water varies with latitudes, insolation (incoming solar radiation), season, currents etc. On an average it ranges from −2 °C or 28 °F to over 30 °C or 86 °F.
24. The climate is influenced by a number of factors like winds, temperatures and the water currents. Generally, the mid latitudes experience warmer climate, the latitudes which are near to equator experience maximum temperature and the latitudes which are near to the poles experience minimum temperature.
25. Icebergs (common in the months of February to August), hurricanes (common in the months of June to November) and persistent fog (common in the months of May to September) are the common hazards of the Atlantic Ocean. Hurricanes are common in North Atlantic but not in South Atlantic.
Atlantic Ocean Facts: 26-30
26. North Atlantic gyre (gyre is system of water currents) circulate in clockwise direction and the South Atlantic gyre circulate in anticlockwise direction because of the Coriolis effect. High tides occur twice a day in South Atlantic.
27. North Atlantic Gyre consists of three currents – Gulf Stream, North Atlantic Current and Subpolar Front which are inter-connected. The Southern Subtropical gyre is the gyre which is dominating current in the South Atlantic.
28. Along with these two gyres, there is another gyre north of North Atlantic called as North Atlantic Subpolar Gyre. It causes a lot of variations in the climate of the Atlantic Ocean. Topography of the region and the ocean currents of the nearby seas control this gyre.
29. Atlantic Ocean is the saltiest ocean of all the five oceans. Salinity of the surface water is nearly 33 to 37 parts per thousand. Salinity is affected by season, precipitation, sea ice, river inflow, latitudes etc. The lowest salinity is seen near the equator because of heavy tropical rainfall. On an average low salinity is seen in the upper and lower latitudes which are near to the poles and where the river inflow is high. Highest salinity region is the subtropical region where there is high evaporation but low rainfall.
30. The ocean maintains its salinity because of two processes. The first – Agulhas Leakage or Rings – it brings salty water from the Indian Ocean to the South Atlantic. The second process – Atmospheric Bridge – subtropical Atlantic water get evaporated and joins the Pacific Ocean.
Atlantic Ocean Facts: 31-35
31. The Atlantic Ocean’s water is divided into upper waters, intermediate waters, deep and abyssal waters. These divisions are further subdivided into 4, 4, 3 subdivisions. The information is provided in the table below.
Upper Waters: The table below gives information about the first division which is known as upper waters which is at a depth of 0-500 meters or 0-1,600 feet.
|Name of the water mass||Temperature/Salinity|
|Atlantic Subarctic Upper Water (ASUW)||0.0–4.0 °C/34-35 ppt|
|Western North Atlantic Central Water (WNACW)||7.0–20 °C/35.0–36.7 ppt|
|Eastern North Atlantic Central Water (ENACW)||8.0–18.0 °C/35.2–36.7 ppt|
|South Atlantic Central Water (SACW)||5.0–18.0 °C/34.3–35.8 ppt|
Intermediate Waters: The table below gives information about the intermediate waters which is at a depth of 500-1500 meters or 1600-4900 feet.
|Name of the water mass||Temperature/Salinity|
|Western Atlantic Subarctic Intermediate Water (WASIW)||3.0–9.0 °C/34.0–35.1 ppt|
|Eastern Atlantic Subarctic Intermediate Water (EASIW)||3.0–9.0 °C/34.4–35.3 ppt|
|Mediterranean Water (MW)||2.6–11.0 °C/35.0–36.2 ppt|
|Arctic Intermediate Water (AIW)||−1.5–3.0 °C/34.7–34.9 ppt|
Deep and Abyssal Waters: The table below gives information about the deep and abyssal waters which is at a depth of 1500 meters and beyond or 4900 feet and beyond.
|Name of the water mass||Temperature/Salinity|
|North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW)||1.5–4.0 °C/ 34.8–35.0 ppt|
|Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW)||−0.9–1.7 °C/ 34.64–34.72 ppt|
|Arctic Bottom Water (ABW)||−1.8 to −0.5 °C/ 34.85–34.94 ppt|
32. When it comes to the history of Atlantic Ocean, it is extremely rich. Atlantic Ocean saw permanent settlements along the European coasts (North Atlantic) 9000 to 85000 years back. Many dumping locations of human excreta, animal bone etc. known as middens are found in the coastal areas of the Atlantic Ocean.
33. Vasco da Gama, by reaching India in 1500, proved that the Atlantic and Indian Oceans are connected. Other explorers like Pedro Alvares Cabral etc. followed the footsteps of Vasco da Gama. Atlantic Ocean helped countries like Britain, France, Spain, Portugal etc. (countries with coastal area) in trade and forming and maintaining colonies. These countries saw extreme growth between the years 1500-1800. Urbanization also increased due to Trans-Atlantic Trade.
34. Apart from the trade and travel route, Atlantic Ocean offers petroleum, gold, precious stones, fish and marine animals, gas fields, polymetallic nodules and much more. The only hinderance is that there is no efficient way to extract these materials from the ocean bed (apart from fish and marine animals).
35. Atlantic Ocean also provides many different fish varieties. But, the number of fish in some areas of the Atlantic Ocean since 1950 are either stable or are continuously decreasing (the number of fish in some areas since 1950 are continuously increasing in Pacific and Indian Oceans).
Atlantic Ocean Facts: 36-40
36. Some of the fish varieties found in Atlantic Ocean are horse mackerel, hake, redfish, haddock, lobster, Atlantic cod, northern shrimp, sand eel, capelin etc.
37. There are many environmental hazards that are threatening the presence of many endangered species. If they become extinct, it will destroy the ecosystem of the Atlantic Ocean. Some of the endangered species are manatees, sea lions, turtles, seals etc.
38. Drift net fishing (fishing where nets, known as drift nets, hang vertically and catch fish when they get entangled in the net) have the capacity to kill albatross, dolphins, auks etc.
39. Marine pollution (addition of dangerous chemical substances like fertilizers to an ocean leads to eutrophication or less oxygen level areas thereby killing marine animals and forming a dead zone in the ocean.
40. Marine debris (waste created by humans which floats on the ocean), global warming, oil pollution in the Caribbean Sea, North Sea, Gulf of Mexico etc. pose a great threat to the equilibrium and ecosystem of the Atlantic Ocean.
Atlantic Ocean Facts: 41-45 | Atlantic Ocean Fun Facts
41. Atlantic Ocean is the richest waters in terms of fishing.
42. Atlantic Ocean is the first ocean of all the oceans to be crossed by plane and it is also the first ocean to be crossed by ship.
43. Cunard Line was the first ship with passengers to cross Atlantic Ocean. It crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 1850s.
44. The largest island in the world, Greenland, is in the Atlantic Ocean.
45. Cancun Reef, the second largest reef (off the coast of Mexico), is present in Atlantic Ocean.
Atlantic Ocean Facts: 46-50 | Atlantic Ocean Fun Facts
46. Rotterdam, New York, Colon, Hamburg etc. are the ports of Atlantic Ocean.
47. Did you know that the Atlantic Ocean is 6.5 times bigger than USA?
48. Great Eastern laid the first ever successful telegraph cable under the Atlantic Ocean in the year 1866.
49. Did you know that the Atlantic Ocean is the youngest ocean of all the five oceans?
50. Sargasso Sea, the only sea in the world without any shore, is present in Atlantic Ocean.
Atlantic Ocean Facts: 51-55 | Atlantic Ocean Fun Facts
51. 91 countries border the Atlantic Ocean. The maximum bordering countries are present in Caribbean and Africa – 27 countries each.
52. Sonar waves are used to read the ocean bed of the Atlantic Ocean.
53. The first woman to cross Atlantic Ocean is Amelia Earhart in 1928. She used airplane to cross the ocean.
54. Atlantic Ocean experiences the highest tides in the world. The tides, at times, reach nearly 50 feet high.
55. Walvis Ridge is an underwater mountain range which is volcanic. It is present in the South Atlantic Ocean.
Atlantic Ocean Facts: 56-60 | Atlantic Ocean Fun Facts
56. It is rarely called as the black Atlantic because black people often used Atlantic Ocean as a route to travel from Africa to America.
57. Crust of the earth experienced crack in 2013. Scientists believe that this marks the union of North America and Europe continents. It means that the Atlantic Ocean may disappear in about 220 million years from now.
58. The infamous Bermuda Triangle (apexes of the cities Bermuda, San Juan and Miami make a triangle) is present in Atlantic Ocean. This place is marked for its shipwrecks, air crashes etc.
59. Did you know that the busiest ocean of the world is the Atlantic Ocean?
60. Bosporus (Turkey) and Strait of Gibraltar are the two busiest waterways present in the Atlantic Ocean.