Window on Nature
By Lowell and Kaye Christie, F47246
Cruising the Internet has become one of our favorite things to do instead of watching television. Recently, Kaye found some interesting information about the world’s oceans at www.ocean98.org. The OCEAN98 Foundation is neither a commercial organization nor a political one, but a privately owned, non-profit group. Its purpose is education, and the territory it covers includes all seas, oceans, and coastal areas in the world. The group presents some insights about oceans that we found fascinating, even as we sat many miles from the coast. Be warned, however; clicking around this Web site may push you into planning your next trip to the open ocean.
Did you realize that if you measured the entire coastline of every continent and included the largest islands, you’d come up with a total of 312,480 miles of coastline? To put this number into perspective, the total mileage would equal 12 trips around the equator.
Amazingly, Canada is the leader when it comes to waterfront property, as its coastline is deeply cut into bays, river mouths, and seas. If you happen to be a dedicated sports person and decide to kayak the entire Canadian coastline, you might consider that this one country has 49 percent of the world’s total coastline. It would be an awesome trip, but plan on paddling a long time to cover Canada’s 150,000 miles of coastline. If you paddle 25 miles per day, it would be 6,000 days of work. By paddling five days a week, you’d be in the water 1,200 weeks. Thus, for a mere 24 years of your life — taking a week or two off each year to replenish supplies — you can sit in a little boat with a paddle in your hands.
Maybe you would prefer to put a mast on top of your motorhome and sail the seven seas. We all grew up being taught that there were seven seas, but in reality, approximately 70 bodies of water are classified as seas. Somehow, sailing the 70 seas doesn’t sound nearly as romantic, does it?
Oceanographers have determined that 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered with water, and that oceans account for 97 percent of all the water found on the planet. Of the five oceans, the Pacific Ocean is the largest, holding more than half the seawater on our globe. The Atlantic Ocean has its own claim to fame, however; its water is both the heaviest and the saltiest of the oceans.
Here’s an interesting fact: 80 percent of all life on Earth lives under the ocean’s surface. An estimated 275,000 types of ocean-dwelling species are known to man, and that number continues to grow as scientists dive deeper into oceanic research.
At a maximum length of nearly 110 feet, the blue whale takes the honors as the largest marine mammal in the world. Blue whales are also the largest animal of any kind, above or below water. On the basis of current scientific knowledge, it’s also the largest animal that has ever lived. Yet, it dines very low on the food chain, on small, shrimplike creatures called krill. (Sperm whales are the largest predators that have ever lived.) The weight of an adult blue whale can reach 110 tons.
Fish aren’t nearly as large as whales, but some huge ones do exist. The world’s largest fish, the whale shark, stretches to 40 feet long and can weigh up to 11 tons. Even at this size, larger species swam the oceans during the age of dinosaurs. It might be hard to believe, but the prehistoric shark Megalodon outweighed Tyrannosaurus Rex.
So, which fish bears the title of fastest in the ocean? The answer is . . . tuna? That’s right. An adult bluefin tuna can zoom through the ocean at up to 55 miles per hour. Even at that speed, if a tuna would decide to start at the surface and dive to the deepest place in the ocean (the Marianas Trench in the Pacific Ocean), 7 miles below the surface, it would never make it. The pressure at the bottom is more than 8 tons per square inch.
If you’ve never cared much for tuna sandwiches, turn your mind to this fact: 90 percent of all volcanic activity occurs underwater. The Hawaiian Islands are not only volcanic, but they are very young. The newborn volcanoes began spewing lava onto the ocean floor millions of years ago, and it took ages for those volcanoes to belch out enough lava to produce islands tall enough to poke their heads above the ocean.
You can’t get an accurate count of volcanoes by noticing only those above the surface of the ocean. At last count, the South Pacific ocean floor had the largest concentration of volcanoes, with 1,133.
One scientist speculated that if you could extract all of the sea salt from the water and spread it evenly over all land areas, it would create a briny crust approximately 40 stories high.
Okay, we’re now convinced that we just have to stand on the edge of the continent and look out over the water to ponder all this knowledge, visualize some of the processes and creatures involved, and appreciate the result.