The Atlantic Ocean

The Atlantic Ocean is one of the oceans that separate the Old World from the New. For centuries it kept the Americas from being discovered by the people of Europe.

It is more than 4,000 miles (6,000 km) wide where Columbus crossed it. Even at its narrowest it is about 2,000 miles (3,200 km) wide. This narrowest place is between the bulge of south America and the bulge of Africa.

Two things make the Atlantic Ocean rather unusual. For so large an ocean it has very few islands. Also, it is the world's saltiest ocean.

There is so much water in the Atlantic that it is hard to imagine how much there is. But suppose no more rain fell into it and no more water was brought to it by rivers. It would take the ocean about 4,000 years to dry up. On the average the water is a little more than two miles (3.2 km) deep, but in places it is much deeper. The deepest spot is near Puerto Rico. This "deep" measures 30,246 feet-almost six miles (9.6 km).

One of the longest mountain ranges of the world rises from the floor of the Atlantic. This mountain range runs north and south down the middle of the ocean. The tops of a few of the mountains reach up above the sea and make islands. The Azores are the tops of peaks in the mid-Atlantic mountain range.

Several hundred miles eastward from Florida there is a part of the ocean called the Sargasso Sea. Here the water is quiet, for there is little wind. In the days of sailing vessels the crew were afraid they would be becalmed here. Sometimes they were.

Ocean currents are sometimes called "rivers in the sea." One of these "rivers" in the Atlantic is called the Gulf Stream. It is a current of warm water. Another is at he Labrador Current - cold water coming down from the Arctic. Ocean currents affect the climates of the lands near which they flow.

The Atlantic furnishes much food for the people on its shores. One of its most famous fishing regions, the Grand Banks, is near New-foundland. Today the Atlantic is a great highway. It is not, however, always a smooth and safe one. Storms sweep across it and pile up great waves. Icebergs float down from the Far North across the paths of ships.

We now have such fast ways of traveling that this big ocean seems to have grown smaller. Columbus sailed for more than two months to cross it. A fast modern steamship can make the trip in less than four days. Airplanes fly from New York to London in only eight hours and from South America to Africa in four!