Pacific Ocean

The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Southern Ocean (or, depending on definition, to Antarctica) in the south and is bounded by Asia and Australia in the west and the Americas in the east.

At 165.25 million square kilometers (63.8 million square miles) in area, this largest division of the World Ocean—and, in turn, the hydrosphere—covers about 46% of the Earth's water surface and about one-third of its total surface area, making it larger than all of the Earth's land area combined.

The equator subdivides it into the North Pacific Ocean and South Pacific Ocean, with two exceptions: the Gal?pagos and Gilbert Islands, while straddling the equator, are deemed wholly within the South Pacific. The Mariana Trench in the western North Pacific is the deepest point in the world, reaching a depth of 10,911 metres (35,797 ft)

Important human migrations occurred in the Pacific in prehistoric times. About 3000 BC, the Austronesian peoples on the island of Taiwan mastered the art of long-distance canoe travel and spread themselves and their languages south to the Philippines, Indonesia, and maritime Southeast Asia; west towards Madagascar; southeast towards New Guinea and Melanesia (intermarrying with native Papuans); and east to the islands of Micronesia, Oceania and Polynesia.

Long-distance trade developed all along the coast from Mozambique to Japan. Trade, and therefore knowledge, extended to the Indonesian islands but apparently not Australia. By at least 878 when there was a significant Islamic settlement in Canton much of this trade was controlled by Arabs or Muslims. In 219 BC Xu Fu sailed out into the Pacific searching for the elixir of immortality. From 1404 to 1433 Zheng He led expeditions into the Indian Ocean.

In 1564, five Spanish ships consisting of 379 explorers crossed the ocean from Mexico led by Miguel L?pez de Legazpi and sailed to the Philippines and Mariana Islands. For the remainder of the 16th century, Spanish influence was paramount, with ships sailing from Mexico and Peru across the Pacific Ocean to the Philippines, via Guam, and establishing the Spanish East Indies. The Manila galleons operated for two and a half centuries linking Manila and Acapulco, in one of the longest trade routes in history. Spanish expeditions also discovered Tuvalu, the Marquesas, the Cook Islands, the Solomon Islands, and the Admiralty Islands in the South Pacific.

Later, in the quest for Terra Australis (i.e., "the Southern Land"), Spanish explorers in the 17th century discovered the Pitcairn and Vanuatu archipelagos, and sailed the Torres Strait between Australia and New Guinea, named after navigator Lu?s Vaz de Torres. Dutch explorers, sailing around southern Africa, also engaged in discovery and trade; Abel Janszoon Tasman discovered Tasmania and New Zealand in 1642.

In the 16th and 17th century Spain considered the Pacific Ocean a Mare clausum—a sea closed to other naval powers. As the only known entrance from the Atlantic the Strait of Magellan was at times patrolled by fleets sent to prevent entrance of non-Spanish ships. On the western end of the Pacific Ocean the Dutch threatened the Spanish Philippines

In Oceania, France got a leading position as imperial power after making Tahiti and New Caledonia protectorates in 1842 and 1853 respectively. After navy visits to Easter Island in 1875 and 1887, Chilean navy officer Policarpo Toro managed to negotiate an incorporation of the island into Chile with native Rapanui in 1888. By occupying Easter Island, Chile joined the imperial nations. (p53) By 1900 nearly all Pacific islands were in control of Britain, France, United States, Germany, Japan, and Chile.

Although the United States gained control of Guam and the Philippines from Spain in 1898, Japan controlled most of the western Pacific by 1914 and occupied many other islands during World War II. However, by the end of that war, Japan was defeated and the U.S. Pacific Fleet was the virtual master of the ocean. Since the end of World War II, many former colonies in the Pacific have become independent states.

The Southern Pacific Ocean harbors the Southeast Indian Ridge crossing from south of Australia turning into the Pacific-Antarctic Ridge (north of the South Pole) and merges with another ridge (south of South American) to form the East Pacific Rise which also connects with another ridge (south of North America) which overlooks the Juan de Fuca Ridge.

For most of Magellan's voyage from the Strait of Magellan to the Philippines, the explorer indeed found the ocean peaceful. However, the Pacific is not always peaceful. Many tropical storms batter the islands of the Pacific. The lands around the Pacific Rim are full of volcanoes and often affected by earthquakes. Tsunamis, caused by underwater earthquakes, have devastated many islands and in some cases destroyed entire towns.

The Martin Waldseem?ller map of 1507 was the first to show the Americas separating two distinct oceans. Later, the Diogo Ribeiro map of 1529 was the first to show the Pacific at about its proper size.
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