Interesting facts about the Pacific Ocean

30 Surprising Facts About the Pacific Ocean

In this article, you’ll find a list of 30 facts that just might surprise you about the Pacific Ocean. Covering a huge chunk of the Earth’s surface, there is still so much we don’t know about this remarkable expanse of water. 

However, there is a wide range of interesting and intriguing facts scientists and explorers have already discovered. Let’s dive in!

1. The ocean’s name, “Pacific,” was given by the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. He named it “Mar Pacifico,” meaning “peaceful sea,” due to its calmness compared to the treacherous waters of Cape Horn. Until the 18th century, The Pacific Ocean was also referred to as the “Sea of Magellan” in honor of Ferdinand Magellan.

2. The Pacific Ocean has witnessed some of the most remarkable human migrations in history. The settlement of the Pacific Islands by Polynesians, the explorations of the Pacific by ancient seafarers, and the historic transpacific voyages of European explorers are testament to the ocean’s significance.

The Pacific Ocean viewed from space, with clouds, the curve of the Earth, and stars beyond visible
The Pacific Ocean from space

3. The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest ocean in the world. It stretches for over 60 million square miles (155 million square kilometers) and covers more than 30 percent of the Earth’s surface.

4. It covers more of the Earth’s surface than all the dry land put together. The Pacific covers approximately one-third of the globe and is almost double the size of the second largest ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, which stretches 31.8 million square miles (82.2 million square kilometers).

5. It stretches from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south. It is bordered by the coasts of North and South America, Asia, Australia, and various island nations. In total 41 countries touch the Pacific Ocean.

6. The Pacific Ocean is dotted with thousands of islands, including some of the world’s most famous archipelagos. These include Hawaii, the Galapagos Islands, French Polynesia (including Tahiti and Bora Bora), and the Philippines.

7. This ocean is home to the deepest point on Earth, the Mariana Trench. It reaches an impressive depth of 36,070 feet (10,994 meters) in the western Pacific near the Mariana Islands. That means Mount Everest (the highest peak in the Himalayas) could fit under its surface, with more than two kilometers to spare.

Glowing lava meeting the ocean and creating steam at night
Lava meets the Pacific Ocean in Hawaii

8. Only 5% of the Pacific Ocean has been explored. Incredibly, less than 10% of it has been mapped using modern sonar technology.

9. Several seas and bays are part of the Pacific Ocean. These include the Sea of Japan, the Philippine Sea, the Coral Sea, the South China Sea, the Gulf of Alaska, the Gulf of California, and the Bering Sea. 

10. The Pacific Ocean is renowned for its intense seismic and volcanic activity. The Ring of Fire encircles the ocean, forming a horseshoe-shaped belt where 90% of the world’s earthquakes occur. 75% of the world’s active volcanoes are found in the Ring of Fire, too.

11. This ocean features vast underwater plateaus, such as the Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain. These plateaus were formed by volcanic activity over millions of years.

12. The Pacific Ocean is home to more than 75% of the world’s coral reefs. The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia, though not exclusively in the Pacific, is the largest coral reef system globally.

Image of the Great Barrier Reef shot from the sky
The Great Barrier Reef in Australia

13. The Pacific Ocean holds significant economic resources, including fish stocks, oil and gas reserves, minerals, and valuable marine organisms such as seaweed and shellfish. These resources support the economies and livelihoods of millions of people across the Pacific Rim.

14. There are various significant ocean currents found in the Pacific, such as the North Pacific Current, the South Equatorial Current, the North Equatorial Current, the California Current, and the Peru Current. These currents play a vital role in redistributing heat around the planet.

15. The Pacific Ocean greatly influences global climate patterns. This is due to its vast size and the circulation of ocean currents. The cold California Current and the warm Kuroshio Current are examples of significant ocean currents affecting the climate along the Pacific coastlines.

16. The Pacific Ocean plays a vital role in global weather patterns, too. The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a climate phenomenon that occurs irregularly in the Pacific, leading to significant changes in weather patterns worldwide.

17. The Pacific is a treasure trove of marine life. It supports diverse marine species, including vibrant fish, sea turtles, whales, dolphins, and countless invertebrates. There are currently over 200,000 recognized species in the Pacific.

Two nautiluses in the ocean
Two ancient nautiluses

18. The Pacific is also home to a vast range of plant life. This includes seagrass, kelp, phytoplankton, giant green anemone, and red algae.

19. Scientists are constantly finding new species of marine plant and animal life in the Pacific. More than 5,000 new species were recently found living on the seabed in an untouched area of the Pacific Ocean.

20. Unfortunately, the Pacific Ocean is also plagued by pollution. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, located between California and Hawaii, is an immense collection of floating plastic debris, covering an area estimated to be twice the size of Texas. As you would expect, this poses a great threat to the marine life found in the ocean.

21. When it comes to tourism, the Pacific Ocean provides a wide range of activities to suit different interests. Visitors can enjoy snorkeling, scuba diving, surfing, sailing, fishing, kayaking, and swimming. Many small Pacific islands are dependent on tourism.

22. The Pacific Ocean is home to iconic landmarks that draw tourists from around the world. Examples include the famous Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, the stunning Bora Bora lagoon, Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the Panama Canal, Sydney Opera House and Great Barrier Reef in Australia, and the majestic Aoraki/Mount Cook in New Zealand.

Suggested Read: 89 Fun Facts About Auckland: The City of Sails

Aerial view of a tropical lagoons with clear cyan blue water in Bora Bora
Super clear water in Bora Bora

23. The Love Boat was set on a cruise ship called the Pacific Princess. Today, Pacific Ocean cruises are immensely popular, allowing tourists to explore multiple destinations in the region. Cruises offer the opportunity to visit different islands and experience the breathtaking beauty of the ocean.

24. In 1947, Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl and his crew embarked on an extraordinary adventure known as the Kon-Tiki expedition. They sailed a raft across the Pacific Ocean from Peru to the Tuamotu Islands, covering over 4,300 miles (6,920 kilometers) in 101 days to demonstrate that prehistoric people could have migrated from South America to Polynesia.

25. American Victor Vescovo was the first person to reach the deepest point of the Pacific Ocean. He has also reached the deepest point of the four other oceans, the highest summit on every continent, and the North and South poles.

26. Several individuals have attempted the incredible feat of rowing solo across the Pacific Ocean. These ambitious journeys require immense physical and mental strength. Some notable successful attempts include those by Colin Angus and Roz Savage.

27. The pioneering aviator, Amelia Earhart, made history with her solo flight across the Pacific Ocean in 1935. She became the first person to fly solo from Honolulu, Hawaii to Oakland, California.

A row of surf boards lined up on a beach in Honolulu
Surfboards beside the Pacific

28. The Pacific Ocean has been a playground for famous surfers from around the world. Surfing legends like Duke Kahanamoku, Kelly Slater, Bethany Hamilton, and Laird Hamilton have visited and surfed famous Pacific breaks.

29. The acclaimed filmmaker and explorer, James Cameron, has taken a keen interest in the Pacific Ocean. He has embarked on deep-sea expeditions, including his solo dive to the Mariana Trench in 2012.

30. The Pacific Ocean has been featured in various films. These include “The Abyss” (1989), “Cast Away” (2000), “Finding Nemo” (2003), “Godzilla” (2014), and “Moana” (2016).

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