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Steven R. Van Hook

Wonders of the World's Seven Seas
The oceans of earth are full of life and surprises.
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 by Steven R. Van Hook

Sunset on PacificThe seas of Earth
wrap more than 2/3 of the planet. The Pacific Ocean alone covers
half of the globe and is bigger than all the world's landmasses combined. 

Yet for all its pervasive presence, we have better maps of the surface of Mars than we do of the ocean depths.

Bill Bryson in his marvelous book, A Short History of Nearly Everything shares some other insights into the wonders of the deep:

  • The Pacific holds 51.6 percent of the planet's ocean waters; the Atlantic holds 23.6 percent; the Indian Ocean another 21.2 percent; and scattered seas hold the remaining 3.6 percent.

  • Ninety-seven percent of all our water is in the seas, and of the 3 percent of Earth's water that is fresh, most of that exists in the ice sheets of Antarctica.

  • Only 0.036 percent of drinkable water is found in lakes, rivers, and reservoirs, and a mere 0.001 percent of fresh water is in clouds and vapor.

  • There are 320-million cubic miles of water on our world, and in our closed planetary system, that is all we're ever going to get. The water we drink now has been circulating billions of years since the Earth was an infant.

  • The average depth of the ocean is 2.4 miles, and some 60 percent of planet's surface is covered by seas more than a mile deep.

  • The Pacific Ocean is about 18 inches higher on its western edge, a result of the Earth's spin and centrifugal force.

  • According to estimates, there may be as many as 30-million animal species living in the ocean, most of those yet undiscovered.

  • However, less than 10 percent of the ocean is considered 'naturally productive,' as most sea species prefer to live in shallower waters with warmth and light. Coral reefs only take up only 1 percent of ocean space, yet 25% of sea fish make their homes there.

  • A liter of sea water contains 2.5 teaspoons of salt, and though our bodies harbor a similar ratio of salt-to-water, drinking sea water will overwhelm our systems with salt and shut down our kidneys.

  • There is enough salt in the sea to bury the entire dry landmass to a depth of 500 feet.

  • The speed of sound in water is about 4,500 feet per second five times faster than sound's speed through air. This is what helps whales to communicate across hundreds of miles (factoid courtesy of History Channel's Modern Marvels).

  • Still, for all the talk of our blue-planet-water-world, only 0.06 percent of Earth's mass is water. We're still a very dry place.

Bryson shares other well-researched facts with wit and flair including disturbing stories of depleted species and horrific dumping of radioactive wastes.

Bill Bryson's book, A Short History of Everything, as well as his other titles including In A Sunburned Country, A Walk in the Woods, and I'm a Stranger Here Myself are available on and other sellers.

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