Pacific Ocean

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Pacific Ocean, largest and deepest of the worlds four oceans, covering more than a third of the earths surface and containing more than half of its free water. It is sometimes divided into two nominal sections: the part north of the equator is called the North Pacific; the part south of the equator, the South Pacific. The name Pacific, which means peaceful, was given to it by the Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan in 1520. I BOUNDARIES AND SIZE The Pacific Ocean is bounded on the east by the North and South American continents; on the north by the Bering Strait; on the west by Asia, the Malay Archipelago, and Australia; and on the south by Antarctica. In the southeast it is arbitrarily divided from the Atlantic Ocean by the Drake Passage along 68 west longitude; in the southwest, its separation from the Indian Ocean is not officially designated. Apart from the marginal seas along its irregular western rim, it has an area of about 165 million sq km (about 64 million sq mi), substantially larger than the entire land surface of the globe. Its maximum length is about 15, 500 km (about 9600 mi) from the Bering Strait to Antarctica, and its greatest width is about 17, 700 km (about 11, 000 mi) from Panama to the Malay Peninsula. Its average depth is 4282 m (14, 049 ft). The greatest known depth in any of the worlds oceans is 11, 033 m (36, 198 ft) in the Mariana Trench off Guam.
II RESOURCES  Much of the plant and animal life of the Pacific Ocean is concentrated along its margins. Nutrient-rich waters from the deep Antarctic Circumpolar Current upwell to the surface in the Peru Current along the coast of Chile and Peru, and the area sustains a large population of anchovetas that is of great importance as a world food resource. A large guano industry has been established from droppings of the seabirds that feed upon the anchovetas. The northwestern Pacific, including the Sea of Japan (East Sea) and the Sea of Okhotsk, is another major world fishery. Coral reefs rich with sea life reach their peak in the Great Barrier Reef, which extends for about 2010 km (about 1250 mi) along the northeastern coast of Australia. Tuna is another important Pacific resource, bringing fleets of many nations in search of the schools that migrate over much of the ocean. The Pacific has also begun to be exploited for its vast mineral resources. The continental shelves off the coasts of California, Alaska, China, and the Indonesian area are known to contain large reserves of petroleum. Patches of the ocean floor are covered with manganese nodules, potato-sized concretions of iron and manganese oxides that sometimes also contain copper, cobalt, and nickel. Programs are under way to examine the feasibility of mining these deposits.

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