The Atlantic Ocean, the second largest

The Atlantic Ocean is the ocean that separates America, to the west, from Europe and Africa, to the east, and extends from the Arctic Ocean, in the north, to the Antarctic, in the south, forming the second largest ocean on the planet after the Pacific. It is also the ocean where our Canary Islands are located.

A little history of this great ocean

The name Atlantic comes from the Greek deity Atlas, the titan who holds the heavens on his back as a punishment imposed by Zeus. The ancient Greeks thought that the world ended at the Pillars of Hercules, which mark the end of the Mediterranean Sea, and believed that the Atlantic Ocean was a gigantic river that circled the globe.

A very important trade route

For centuries, the idea that this ocean marked the end of the world reigned in Europe, Asia and Africa. But in 1492, the Genoese navigator Christopher Columbus crossed its waters in search of a trade route that would allow him to reach Asia and found the American continent.

Later, during the time of colonization, this ocean was an important trade route between America, Europe and Africa. Through the Atlantic, the riches that Europeans extracted from America and the slaves that were transported from Africa to work in the mines and plantations were transported. Likewise, during the 19th and 20th centuries, it was the route taken by millions of European immigrants who left their countries to live in America.

Today, the Atlantic is one of the most commercially active oceans in the world. It is of vital economic importance for trade between Europe and America. In addition, oil exploitation, fish farming, tourism and trade are among the largest on the planet.

Explaining the Atlantic Ocean

For centuries, the Atlantic Ocean has been a key route for trade and travel. It stretches from the Arctic Circle to Antarctica and borders the Americas to the west and Europe and Africa to the east. In addition, this ocean drives our weather patterns, including hurricanes, and is home to many species, from sea turtles to dolphins.

With its approximately 106.4 million square kilometers, it is the second largest ocean on Earth after the Pacific, which is equivalent to 20% of the Earth's total surface. It has an average depth of 3,900 meters due to a gigantic plateau close to 3,000 meters deep that constitutes almost its entire bottom. This plateau is linked to the large depressions that are found on the edges of this and that reach 8,800 meters in the vicinity of Puerto Rico.

Scientists and geographers broadly separate the Atlantic in terms of north and south. The North Atlantic and South Atlantic have distinct ocean currents that influence climate around the world.

Two major characteristics of the Atlantic Ocean

Large mountain ranges and trenches

The most striking feature of the Atlantic seafloor is a large submarine mountain range that crosses it from north to south, called the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which is formed at the boundary of four tectonic plates: Eurasian, North American, South American and African. The ocean floor is believed to be generally quite flat, although there are abundant seamounts, such as the Gorringe, as well as deep trenches.

The Gulf Stream

Another major feature of this ocean is the Gulf Stream, an ocean current that moves a large mass of warm water from the Gulf of Mexico into the North Atlantic. This current circulates at a depth of about 100 meters and a width of more than 1,000 kilometers in most of its path and provides Europe with a warm climate for the latitude in which it is located.

The flora and fauna of the Atlantic Ocean

The Atlantic Ocean is home to a diverse range of marine life, both that which we can observe on the surface and that which is almost hidden from human eyes. 

The marine flora in the Atlantic Ocean, as in all oceans, is characterized by the presence of phytoplankton, microorganisms capable of photosynthesis that occupy the base of the marine food chain.

As for the fauna, there are fish of different sizes and large predators, such as sharks and killer whales. In addition, animal life forms that have evolved to withstand water pressure, darkness and low temperatures develop in the depths. Some species even possess bioluminescent organs that allow them to communicate, defend themselves from predators and forage for food in low light conditions.

On the other hand, the waters near the poles are home to marine life adapted to low temperatures and the presence of ice, such as seals, walruses, penguins and whales.

The legend of Atlantis

There are many legends surrounding the Atlantic Ocean, but the best known is undoubtedly that of Atlantis.

Atlantis is a legendary island of mythical origin mentioned by the Greek philosopher Plato in his dialogues Timaeus and Critias. According to Plato, Atlantis was an advanced and powerful civilization that existed thousands of years ago and sank into the Atlantic Ocean after a cataclysm.

Throughout history, there have been many theories and speculations about the true existence and location of Atlantis. However, there is no firm archaeological evidence to support its existence, so it is considered a mythical legend, not a real historical civilization.

The Canary Islands is a land with a thousand things to see, explore and learn about. If you are interested in learning more interesting facts about the Canary Islands, here is a link to the Explora Canarias section of Marca Canaria.

Photos: National Geographic, EFE Green


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