The other day I was talking to my partner and I asked him why were there so many seas and oceans – wasn’t there just one in reality. (Yes I do annoy him with all my random questions) The reason why I was curious is sometimes I think we as a species work really hard to complicate things and through doing so we inadvertantly build divides.
Anyway I found this website the National Ocean Service which confirmed my suspicions by advising that there is only
“One Ocean, One World”
So, of course that begged an explanation as to why we have in fact so many names for the one body of water and what is the difference between oceans and seas and I found a number of sites filled with fascinating facts so here you go:
There are in fact five oceans and seven seas, the table below is sourced from infoplease and provides statistics for anyone who is interested.
How the oceans were named is quite interesting and I found this site, Oxford Dictionaries, with detailed explanations which I have inserted below:
Let’s mention this one first, as (linguistically) it’s the least interesting ocean: it is named simply because it is to the south of India.
If you’re wondering whether there’s a link between Pacific and pacify, then you’re not wrong. The name of the ocean was originally a specific use of pacific, meaning ‘peaceful’ or ‘characterized by calmness’. Pacific Ocean derives from Mar Pacifico, the name given in Portuguese, Italian, and Spanish to the body of water in allusion to the calm seas experienced by Ferdinand Magellan on first reaching it in 1520.
Atlantic comes from the Greek Atlantikos, from Atlas, the Titan of Greek mythology who supported the heavens with his great strength. (His image appeared as a frontispiece to early collections of maps in a volume, leading to the modern use of the word atlas.) The term Atlantic originally referred to the Atlas Mountains in North Africa, and hence to the sea near the west African coast, and was later extended to refer to the whole ocean.
The Arctic Ocean, unsurprisingly, surrounds the Arctic; that is, the regions around the North Pole. Arctic conceals its origins rather more successfully; it comes from the Greek arktos, meaning ‘bear’ – and also ‘Ursa Major’ and ‘pole star’. The connection between bear and star comes from the story in Greek mythology that the nymph Callisto was turned into a bear and placed as a constellation in the heavens by Zeus.
The Antarctic Ocean, also known as the Southern Ocean, is defined in opposition to the Arctic: Antarctic simply means ‘opposite to the Arctic’. Both Antarctic Ocean and Southern Ocean are in common use as terms, and were originally used in reference to this body of water around the same time, albeit different centuries. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) currently dates Antarctic Ocean to 1699 and Southern Ocean to 1702.
Next question, so what is the difference between an ocean and a sea? This one had me stumped but the explanation is quite simple – a sea is usually smaller than an ocean and usually located where the ocean meets the land according to the National Ocean Services.
I didn’t really get a clear explanation regarding how the seven seas are named the names of the seven seas but from Wikipedia it is evident that their names have evolved over time. The Modern names are : Arctic, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, North Pacific, South Pacific, Indian, and Southern Oceans but by no means is this a general consensus. Rather the seven seas appears to be an ambigious term which is defined by location rather than an internationally accepted standard.
From my research I think it is evident that this is all rather a slippery slope, as is evident in Australia’s case – as an island we should technically be surrounded by seas, but as the map below demonstrates this is not the case.
I’m not too sure if I have achieved my intention of demonstrating that it is us who imposes boundaries but at least there may be something in this post that interests you