Facts about the Atlantic Ocean, the ocean between America and Europe

Northern Atlantic Ocean

Northern Atlantic Ocean

What is the Atlantic

The Atlantic Ocean is one of the major oceans in the world.

Remember: Earth is mostly water; over 70% of it is sea. Dry land where we live actually represents a minority of the surface. Our planet is the Planet of Oceans.

Of all surface of the Earth, Atlantic Ocean covers a 20%, or one fifth.

What are its main parts?

The northern part of Atlantic Ocean is the sea that separates Europe and North America. Traveling from America to Europe or vice versa means crossing North Atlantic Ocean, whether you do it by airplane or by ship.

The other part, South Atlantic Ocean, is located between South America and Africa.

Cliffs of Moher, on the western shore of Ireland. The Atlantic can be seen.

Cliffs of Moher, on the western shore of Ireland. The Atlantic can be seen in this picture as it reaches Europe

Fear of crossing the Atlantic

Since antiquity, Europeans were afraid of sail Atlantic Ocean. The Strait of Gibraltar – the natural boundary between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic – was seen as the end of the known world. In the Middle Ages the only idea of crossing it, and thus sailing into the Atlantic, meant offence to God.

Who first crossed the Atlantic?

America has been discovered by Europeans by crossing the Atlantic. Although the Italian Christopher Columbus is to this day remembered as the one who discovered America in 1492 A.D., the Vikings actually set foot on North America much earlier, as early as 1000 A.D.

The great submerged mountain range, the backbone of Atlantic.

The bottom of Atlantic Ocean, approximately midway between Europe and America, is crossed for all its north-to-south length by a submarine mountain range, the so-called Mid-Atlantic Range.

This range is home to a multitude of volcanoes. Apart from that and from other minor mountain ranges, most of the Atlantic bottom is an abyssal plain, the depth of which is in average 15,000 ft.

Both a polar and equatorial ocean

The Atlantic is bordered to the north by the Arctic Ocean and to the south by the Southern Ocean (which is the ocean that surrounds Antarctica), therefore the Atlantic spans from the North Polar Region to the South Polar Region.

Sahara desert meets the Atlantic coast, Morocco, Africa.

Sahara desert meets the Atlantic coast, Morocco, Africa.

Penguin on the shore of Southern Atlantic Ocean, Patagonia, South America

Penguin on the shore of Southern Atlantic Ocean, Patagonia, South America

The Gulf Stream

The Atlantic is home to the most renowned marine current in the world: the Gulf Stream.

As all ocean currents, the Gulf Stream is like a river on the sea. Its temperature and salinity are different from surrounding waters. The Gulf Stream originates where the Gulf of Mexico meets the Atlantic (hence the name) and carries warm water across the Ocean up to Northern Europe. The effect of such warm water is deemed to be mostly responsible for the fact that European Atlantic coasts are averagely warmer than their American counterpart, the east coasts of United States and Canada.

Florida sign marking the southernmost point of the Continental US, at the meeting point between Atlantic Ocean (left) and Gulf of Mexico (right)

Florida sign marking the southernmost point of the Continental US, at the meeting point between Atlantic Ocean (left) and Gulf of Mexico (right)

Does the Atlantic exist since ever?

Nope. It appeared on Earth around 130 million years ago, when the Americas, Europe and Africa, then united to form a single huge continent, started to drift apart. At that time, dinosaurs still dominated the Earth.


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