The Pacific Ocean is the largest ocean in the world. It covers more than a third of the entire planet, and reaches from the far north of the Northern Hemisphere to the far south of the Southern Hemisphere. Th e Pacific Ocean is so big that all the continents and almost all of the other oceans could fit into it.
It is also the deepest ocean, with an average depth of 13,741 feet (4,188 meters). That’s more than 21/2 miles (4 kilometers) deep. Th e deepest canyon in the world, called the Challenger Deep, is part of a larger canyon called the Mariana Trench. Th is canyon extends into the earth about 7 miles (11 kilometers).
Underneath the Pacific Ocean is where Earth is most active—the continental plates grind against each other, causing major earthquakes to occur and volcanoes to erupt.
In fact, there is an area in the South Pacific the size of New York State that has 1,133 active volcanoes that erupt regularly. Th ere is at least one volcano erupting at any given time!
Th e Pacific Ocean isn’t just the deepest and largest ocean. It is also home to one of the world’s most amazing natural wonders: the Great Barrier Reef. Located off of the northeastern coast of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is 210 separate coral reefs that stretch for more than 1,260 miles (2,028 kilometers) around northern Australia. Th e Great Barrier Reef is full of some of the most amazing, beautiful, and deadly sea creatures on the planet, including the Irukandji jellyfish and the great white shark. Coral reefs are made of the hard outer skeletons of tiny animals called polyps, which are related to jellyfish and sea anemones. When polyps die, new polyps grow skeletons over the old. That’s how coral reefs grow, but it takes a very long time.
In fact, it takes about 20 years for a colony of coral to grow to be about the size of a basketball. Scientists estimate that the Great Barrier Reef began to grow about 18 million years ago and is still growing today.
Like all coral reefs, the Great Barrier Reef is affected by pollution and climate change. Coral can only grow in warm, shallow water, because most polyps eat algae. If water levels get too deep, the coral can’t grow because there isn’t enough sunlight for algae to survive. Polyps are also affected by temperature. If the temperature of the water gets too warm, the polyps die. Since the living polyps are what give coral reefs their color, when polyps die the coral reef bleaches. Th e Great Barrier Reef has been a national marine park since 1983, and the Australian government works hard to keep the reef healthy.
What Kind of Animals Live in the Pacific Ocean?
Birds: Penguins, puffins, albatrosses, terns, curlews, pelicans, herons and egrets.
Marine mammals: Sea otters, manatees and dugongs.
Fish: Salmon, cod, halibut, marlin, tuna, ladyfish, herring and sardines.
Pinnipeds: Seals, fur seals, walruses and sea lions.
Not only is the blue whale the largest animal to live on the Earth today, they are also the largest animal to have ever existed on Earth. A blue whale can grow up to 100 feet long and weigh upwards of 200 tons.