Atlantic Ocean Blue Beach | Smith Point, New York  by © Sophie W. Smith
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The Atlantic Ocean is the second largest of the world’s oceanic divisions, following the Pacific Ocean. With a total area of about 106,400,000 square kilometres (41,100,000 sq mi), it covers approximately 20 percent of the Earth’s surface and about 29 percent of its water surface area. The first part of its name refers to Atlas of Greek mythology, making the Atlantic the “Sea of Atlas”.

The oldest known mention of “Atlantic” is in The Histories of Herodotus around 450 BC (Hdt. 1.202.4): Atlantis thalassa (Greek: Ἀτλαντὶς θάλασσα; English: Sea of Atlas). The term Ethiopic Ocean, derived from Ethiopia, was applied to the southern Atlantic as late as the mid-19th century. Before Europeans discovered other oceans, their term “ocean” was synonymous with the waters beyond the Strait of Gibraltar that are now known as the Atlantic. The early Greeks believed this ocean to be a gigantic river encircling the world.

The Atlantic Ocean occupies an elongated, S-shaped basin extending longitudinally between Eurasia and Africa to the east, and the Americas to the west. As one component of the interconnected global ocean, it is connected in the north to the Arctic Ocean, to the Pacific Ocean in the southwest, the Indian Ocean in the southeast, and the Southern Ocean in the south (other definitions describe the Atlantic as extending southward to Antarctica). The equator subdivides it into the North Atlantic Ocean and South Atlantic Ocean. The term “Central Atlantic” refers to the area between South America and Africa north of the Equator; while geographically part of the North Atlantic, its character is very different to the waters to the north between North America and Europe. Read more

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