O is for Oceans

I never heard of the Southern Ocean! It wasn’t in my fourth grade geography book.


This post was inspired by an episode of the TV show JEOPARDY! Specifically, April 4, 2011 final. The category was WORLD GEOGRAPHY: “These 3 nations each border the world’s largest & smallest oceans.”

I must admit that I sussed out the answer immediately. From the responses, however, it was clear that none of the contestants knew a key element of the clue. One response was India and Sri Lanka; another Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Borneo; and the third, Australia, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

So, what ARE the largest and smallest oceans in the world?

The largest, by a considerable margin, is the Pacific Ocean, with 64,186,000 square miles (166.241 million sq km). But you all knew that, didn’t you?
The second-largest, of course, is the Atlantic Ocean, with 33,420,000 square miles (86.557 million sq km); I wasn’t aware of such a disparity of size between the Pacific and Atlantic.
The third-largest is the Indian Ocean, at 28,350,000 square miles (73.426 million sq km). This, clearly, is the ocean that the contestants thought was the smallest; not so.

The fourth-largest is the Southern Ocean at 7,848,300 square miles (20.327 million sq km). WHAT? I never heard of it! It wasn’t in my fourth-grade geography book. “Until the year 2000, there were four recognized oceans: the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, and Arctic. In the Spring of 2000, the International Hydrographic Organization delimited a new ocean, the Southern Ocean (it surrounds Antarctica and extends to 60 degrees latitude).”
The smallest ocean, then, has to be the Arctic Ocean at 5,106,000 square miles (13.224 million sq km).

So, if the largest ocean is the Pacific, and the smallest the Arctic, what three countries border both?

While you think about it, a bit about oceans: The ocean covers 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and contains 97 percent of the planet’s water, yet more than 95 percent of the underwater world remains unexplored.

Obviously, the bordering nations have to be large, northern countries. Two immediately came to mind: Russia and Canada. What’s the third? The United States! Specifically Alaska. (The Pacific is at the top of this map, with North America to the left and Asia to the right.)

Interestingly, the first contestant started writing the US, Canada and Mexico, bailed and went with the answer shown. Even though I knew the answer to the question, I learned something too from this exercise!

ABC Wednesday – Round 9

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