The New Student's Reference Work/Atlantic Ocean

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The New Student's Reference Work (1914)
Atlantic Ocean
See also Atlantic Ocean on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.


Atlan′tic Ocean, so called either from Mt. Atlas or from the fabulous island of Atlantis, which separates the old from the new world.  Its greatest width is about 5,000 miles; but between Brazil and the African coast the distance is only about 1,600 miles.  It is in open communication both with the Arctic Ocean and the Antarctic or Southern Ocean.  The average depth is between two and three miles, though in places it is twice that depth.  It has been sounded in all directions, and it has been found that as a rule the bed of the ocean is a broad, gently undulating plain, though near some of the continental shores and around some of the volcanic cones which rise from this floor there are very steep slopes.  Life exists at all depths of the sea, though becoming less abundant at greater depths; while the surface waters from equator to poles swarm with all kinds of plants and animals, many of which give forth a phosphorescent light, causing what is known as the luminosity of the sea.

Though only about half as large as the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic is much more important, as the most civilized nations of the world live on its shores and it is the great highway of trade for the world.  Its coasts are better surveyed and better provided with lighthouses than those of any other ocean.  It is divided by the equator into the North Atlantic and South Atlantic, with respective areas of 14,000,000 and 10,000,000 square miles.  It is estimated that the yearly discharge of rivers into the Atlantic is 3,400 cubic miles of water, equal to about one half of the river discharge of the world.

There are warm and cold currents in the Atlantic, which have an effect on the neighboring lands.  The most important is the Gulf Stream.  It starts from the Gulf of Mexico and spreads out over the ocean to the south of Newfoundland; one part of it returns to the tropics off the coasts of Spain and Africa; the other passes northward between the British Isles and Iceland and on to the coasts of Norway, which are thus rendered habitable, though the opposite coasts of Greenland are icebound.

The chief inlets of the Atlantic are, on the west, Baffin Bay, Davis and Hudson Straits, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea; and on the east the North and Baltic Seas, Bay of Biscay, Strait of Gibraltar and Gulf of Guinea.  The principal islands washed by the ocean are, on the west, Newfoundland, Bermuda, Bahama and West India Islands, Trinidad and the Falkland Islands; and on the east, Iceland, Faroe, Shetland, Orkney and the British Islands, the Azores, Madeira, Canary and Cape Verd Islands, together with St. Paul, Ascension and St. Helena.  Some twenty cables now cross the Atlantic floor between the Old World and the New; while the Marconi wireless system, now successfully inaugurated, adds to the facilities of international communication.