"OCEAN PLANET" OCEANOGRAPHIC FACTS
- Ninety percent of all volcanic activity occurs in the oceans.
In 1993, scientists located the largest known concentration
of active volcanoes on the sea floor in the South Pacific.
This area, the size of New York state, hosts 1,133 volcanic
cones and sea mounts. Two or three could erupt at any moment.
- The highest tides in the world are at the Bay of Fundy, which
separates New Brunswick from Nova Scotia. At some times of
the year the difference between high and low tide is 53 feet
6 inches, the equivalent of a three-story building.
- The oceans cover 71 percent of the Earth's surface and
contain 97 percent of the Earth's water. Less than 1 percent
is fresh water, and 2-3 percent is contained in glaciers and
- Earth's longest mountain range is the Mid-Ocean Ridge, which
winds around the globe from the Arctic Ocean to the Atlantic,
skirting Africa, Asia and Australia, and crossing the Pacific
to the west coast of North America. It is four times longer
than the Andes, Rockies, and Himalayas combined.
- Canada has the longest coastline of any country, at 56,453
miles or around 15 percent of the world's 372,384 miles of
- A slow cascade of water beneath the Denmark Strait sinks 2.2
miles, more than 3.5 times farther than Venezuela's Angel
Falls, the tallest waterfall on land.
- El Niño, a periodic shift of warm waters from the western to
eastern Pacific Ocean, has dramatic effects on climate
worldwide. In 1982-1983, the most severe El Niño of the
century created droughts, crop failures, fires, torrential
rains, floods, landslides--total damages were estimated at
more than $8 billion.
- At the deepest point in the ocean the pressure is more than 8
tons per square inch, or the equivalent of one person trying
to support 50 jumbo jets.
- At 39 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature of almost all of
the deep ocean is only a few degrees above freezing.
- If mined, all the gold suspended in the world's seawater
would give each person on Earth 9 pounds.
- In 1958, the United States Coast Guard icebreaker East Wind
measured the world's tallest known iceberg off western
Greenland. At 550 feet it was only 5 feet 6 inches shorter
than the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C.
- Although Mount Everest, at 29,028 feet, is often called the
tallest mountain on Earth, Mauna Kea, an inactive volcano on
the island of Hawaii, is actually taller. Only 13,796 feet of
Mauna Kea stands above sea level, yet it is 33,465 feet tall
if measured from the ocean floor to its summit.
- If the ocean's total salt content were dried, it would cover
the continents to a depth of 5 feet.
- Undersea earthquakes and other disturbances cause tsunamis,
or great waves. The largest recorded tsunami measured 210
feet above sea level when it reached Siberia's Kamchatka
Peninsula in 1737.
- The Antarctic Ice Sheet is almost twice the size of the
These oceanographic facts come from the Smithsonian Institution's Ocean Planet
exhibition and from the book Ocean Planet: Writings and Images of the Sea, by Peter Benchley and Judith
Gradwohl (published by Harry N. Abrams Inc., 100 5th Ave., New
York, N.Y. 10011)
Ocean Planet Exhibition Floorplan
gene carl feldman (email@example.com) (301) 286-9428
Judith Gradwohl, Smithsonian Institution (Curator/Ocean Planet)