The Atlantic Ocean, covering abut one fifth of the total surface of the earth, one quarter of earth’s water surface, is the second larges Ocean of the world. The Atlantic has a total area measuring approx. 106.4 million sq. km. The Atlantic Ocean gets its name from the Latin equivalent to Atlas.
The Atlantic Ocean floor is around 12000 ft. deep in average. A submarine ridge from SE Greenland to North Scotland separates the Atlantic Ocean from the Arctic Ocean. Similarly another shallow submarine ridge along the Strait of Gibraltar marks the separation of Mediterranean Basin and the Atlantic Oceans. A portion of the Atlantic Ocean’s floor extending to 910 m. deep is called as telegraph plateau, due to the cable network laid therein. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is replete with volcanoes and earthquake activity, having an ever-widening rift which is filled with molten rock from interiors of earth. This has resulted in the moving away of Western Hemisphere, Europe as well as Africa from one another.
The Atlantic Ocean widens in S shape, between North and South America on the western side, and Africa and Europe in the eastern side. The Greenland Sea and the Smith Sound connects Atlantic Ocean with the Arctic Ocean, while the Magellan Straits and Panama Canal connect it with the Pacific Ocean by Drake Passage; and Suez Canal as well as the area between Antarctica and Africa connects it to the Indian Ocean. Atlantic Ocean receives the draining waters from the big rivers like the Congo, the Mississippi, the Amazon, all of which confluence with it.
Compared to other oceans, The Atlantic Ocean has less number of islands, while the Caribbean area has the largest concentration of islands. These islands are part of the continental structures, like the Falkland Islands, British Isles, Canary Islands, Newfoundland. Iceland, the Azores, Ascension, Cape Verde islands, the West Indies, the South Sandwich Islands and Bermuda, some of which are exposed tops of submarine ridges. Volcanic activity is high in Madeira Islands, while the coral islands in the Atlantic Ocean include The Bahamas.
The Atlantic Ocean is divided by its shape into North and South Atlantic Ocean basins, both having different kinds of circulation systems. North Atlantic basin has clockwise moving currents, which include the Antilles Current, North Atlantic Drift, Gulf Stream, while the anti-clockwise currents in the South Atlantic basis include the Brazil Current, West Wind Drift, South Equatorial Current, and Benguela Current. Both of these systems are alienated by the Equatorial Counter Current; but the Guinea Current off West Africa serves as a link between the two. The surface waters of the Atlantic Ocean, especially in the trade wind belts have highest saline concentrations ever found in ocean waters.
Trade & Commerce
The North Atlantic Ocean can boast of world’s largest shipping lanes, along the northern lanes patrolling is regularly done for icebergs. Carthaginians initiated the trading and commercial activities between the North East Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, even as Scandinavians sailed to the Atlantic Ocean during the 7th Century AD. Portuguese opened trade routes along coastal Africa, even as Spanish opened commercial routes to the Western Hemisphere, after Columbus voyaged in these areas. The world’s finest commercial fishing grounds are found in the Atlantic Ocean’s Grand Banks, though it has been drained by over-fishing, depleting many species.