To myself I am only a child playing on the beach, while vast oceans of truth lie undiscovered before me.

The Atlantic Ocean

The hourglass shaped Atlantic covers approximately 20 percent of the Earth's surface and is the second largest of the four oceans. It extends from the North Pole southward for 10,000 miles to the Antarctic continent, and covers 41 million square miles. Width of the Atlantic varies from 1,769 miles between Brazil and Liberia and approximately 3,000 miles between Norfolk, VA, and Gibraltar.

More is known of the Atlantic than any other ocean because of heavy commercial and military ship traffic connecting Europe and North America. Average depth is 12,000 feet and the greatest depth is 28,374 feet in the Puerto Rico Trench. If Alaska's Mount McKinley (20,320 feet) was to rise from the floor of the Puerto Rico trench, its peak would still be about 1.5 miles below the surface of the Atlantic.

The Mid-Atlantic Ridge divides the sea floor nearly through the center and stretches from the polar regions of the North to Antarctica in the South. The Mid Atlantic Ridge was created by the splitting apart of the super continent of Pangaea 190 million years ago. The ridge lies about 10,000 feet below water level except in a few areas where it surfaces as islands. This mountain range is as much as 500 miles wide. Rugged valleys extend outward from the ridge line to the abyssal plains.

The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is a continuous feature of the basin floor with one exception. There is a significant break in the ridge near the equator at the Romanche furrow where the crest of the ridge dips 15,000 feet below the surface. This break in the mountain chain allows deep water to flow freely between the Atlantic's east and west sides. The unrestricted movement provides a thorough circulation of the ocean basin that has a pronounced effect on deep water currents, density and temperature.

Terrain: surface usually covered with sea ice in Labrador Sea, Denmark Strait, and Baltic Sea from October to June; clockwise warm-water gyre (broad, circular system of currents) in the northern Atlantic, counterclockwise warm-water gyre in the southern Atlantic; the ocean floor is dominated by the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a rugged north-south centerline for the entire Atlantic basin

Natural resources: oil and gas fields, fish, marine mammals (seals and whales), sand and gravel aggregates, placer deposits, polymetallic nodules, precious stones

Natural hazards: icebergs common in Davis Strait, Denmark Strait, and the northwestern Atlantic Ocean from February to August and have been spotted as far south as Bermuda and the Madeira Islands; ships subject to superstructure icing in extreme northern Atlantic from October to May; persistent fog can be a maritime hazard from May to September; hurricanes (May to December)

Environment - current issues: endangered marine species include the manatee, seals, sea lions, turtles, and whales; drift net fishing is hastening the decline of fish stocks and contributing to international disputes; municipal sludge pollution off eastern US, southern Brazil, and eastern Argentina; oil pollution in Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, Lake Maracaibo, Mediterranean Sea, and North Sea; industrial waste and municipal sewage pollution in Baltic Sea, North Sea, and Mediterranean Sea




Geography Area:
total: 76.762 million sq km
note: includes Baltic Sea, Black Sea, Caribbean Sea, Davis Strait, Denmark Strait, part of the Drake Passage, Gulf of Mexico, Mediterranean Sea, North Sea, Norwegian Sea, almost all of the Scotia Sea, and other tributary water bodies
Area - comparative: slightly less than 6.5 times the size of the US

Coastline: 111,866 km

Climate: tropical cyclones (hurricanes) develop off the coast of Africa near Cape Verde and move westward into the Caribbean Sea; hurricanes can occur from May to December, but are most frequent from August to November

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Milwaukee Deep in the Puerto Rico Trench -8,605 m
highest point: sea level 0 m

Oceans Posters | Oceanography |  Contact Us