You may have heard experts referring to the ocean in the singular. It’s “the ocean”, as opposed to “the oceans”. But if there is just one global ocean, what are the 5 oceans that many people reference, and why are 7 seas occasionally mentioned?
It’s confusing, but the answer is not as ambiguous as you might think and, in this guide, we’ll tell you what you need to know.
One Global Ocean
Technically, there is only one world ocean. The body of water that spans 71% of the earth’s surface is connected, and so it’s basically the liquid equivalent of Pangea, a land mass once formed from all of the world’s continents.
However, this “world ocean” is often divided into four main oceans (Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Arctic Ocean, and Indian Ocean) with many countries now recognizing the Southern Ocean as number five on that list.
The boundaries that define these many oceans have changed over the years, and if you go back many centuries, the number of oceans has also changed, with early civilizations creating tighter borders and understanding less about the bodies of water that make up the earth’s surface.
Are There 5 or 7 Oceans?
Ancient pirates were said to have “sailed the seven seas”, a phrase that was passed down to us from Ancient Greece and through Medieval Europe.
The seven seas have actually changed over the years. The Ancient Greeks considered the seven seas to be the Aegean, Mediterranean, Black Sea, Red Sea, Adriatic Sea, Persian Gulf, and the Caspian Sea.
Many hundreds of years later, European sailors described the seven seas as the Baltic, Atlantic Ocean, North Sea, Black Sea, Red Sea, Arabian Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea, several of which were not known to the Greeks.
Following the discovery of the Americas, the concept changed again, but the idea of “7 seas” did not.
Today, there are just 5 recognized oceans: the Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, Arctic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, and the Southern Ocean.
What are the 5 Biggest Oceans in the World?
The five biggest oceans are as follows:
A vast ocean that sits between North and South America to the west and Europe and Africa to the east.
A massive ocean that extends from the Arctic Ocean to the Southern Ocean. It stretches between Asia and Australia on one side and North and South America on the other.
The Indian Ocean covers the Arabian Sea and Persian Gulf (previously listed as separate seas by our ancestors). It is located to the west of Australia and covers India, as well.
The Arctic Ocean is a comparatively small ocean located around the North Pole.
Also known as the Antarctic Ocean or the Southern (Antarctic) Ocean, this body of water is the latest to gain official recognition. According to the US Board on Geographic Names, it extends out from the coast of Antarctica. However, it has not been recognized by all authorities.
Stats About the Oceans
Ever wondered which ocean is the biggest, most dangerous, or cleanest? Let’s take a look at the most commonly asked questions about the world’s oceans.
Which Ocean is the Biggest and Deepest?
The Pacific Ocean is both the biggest and deepest of the five oceans, encompassing around half of all the water on the planet and spanning a vast 63 million square miles.
Which Ocean is the Coldest?
The Arctic Ocean is the coldest. It’s also the smallest and the shallowest.
Which Ocean is the Warmest?
The Pacific Ocean is the hottest of all the world’s oceans, and by quite a long way.
Which Ocean is the Most Dangerous?
It depends on the definition. If we’re talking about shipwrecks, then it would probably go to the Atlantic Ocean, as it encompasses both the North Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, which are some of the most troubled on the planet. There have also been many more shark attacks in the Atlantic Ocean than in the Pacific Ocean.
Which Ocean is the Cleanest?
The Southern Ocean is relatively far removed from human involvement and so it’s probably the cleanest of the five oceans.
Which Ocean is the Saltiest?
The Atlantic Ocean is the saltiest of all five ocean basins.
Summary: How Many Oceans are There?
As you can see, there is really only one global ocean if we’re focusing on connected bodies of water and either 4 or 5 if we’re using officially recognized dividers.