What makes each ocean unique?

Well, it’s finally happened. My almost seven-year old is bringing on the thought-provoking questions. We talk a lot about how what we do in our house will affect our watershed and that in turn (collectively) affects the world. Well, I was snagged the other day when I said, “Well, the river goes to the lake and leads to another lake and river and then to the ocean. And, it’s the only ocean we have so we need to take care of it.” What I heard next was, “Mom, if it goes into the Atlantic Ocean isn’t there also the Pacific? Isn’t that two oceans?” She’s not alone in the confusion as I’ve had students not sure how the oceans are connected (Giant Conveyor Belt of currents!) and why do we give them all different names.

I laid it out like this: There is only one ocean, but each area of the world has a section (i.e., basin) of the ocean that has specific properties based on temperature and what type of land it is near. For instance, the Pacific Ocean is huge, has rocky shorelines, and lots of volcanoes and islands because it’s surrounded by the “Ring of Fire.” I explained that the Indian Ocean is pretty flat almost like the Gulf of Mexico because lots of rivers flow gently into it.

Here’s a quick graphic I fancied up to share on some major characteristics of each ocean basin. Click on it and then travel around to each one! I like to keep it simple so if you feel like there’s something that needs additional emphasis, please feel free to share so I can add it!


31 facts about Arctic whales

This past week offshore drilling in the Arctic was approved to get underway (it’s been 20 years since this previously happened). This is going to severely affect the quiet and serene home for whales and other marine animals in the area. Here are 31 facts about the beluga, narwal, and bowheads whales – species that exclusively call this area home.


Why don’t fish freeze in the Arctic Ocean?

Fish species that frequent the cold temperatures of the Arctic Ocean (e.g., toothfish, cod, ice fish, etc.) have special ‘antifreeze’ proteins within their blood stream that enables them not to freeze in the cold waters of the northern hemisphere. This discovery was made about 50 years ago.

Recently, scientists from the Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany discovered how these proteins work. In the presence of the proteins, water molecules in the blood stream act in a more uniform fashion and are more particular about the bonds that they create. Whereas without the antifreeze proteins, water molecules just create haphazard bonds. Now we understand why fish can survive in the temperatures of the polar oceans which are below what should freeze fish blood.

The scientists made this discovery by using a technique called terahertz radiation on an Antarctic toothfish, Dissostichus mawsoni.

Journal reference:
Simon Ebbinghaus, Konrad Meister, Benjamin Born, Arthur L. DeVries, Martin Gruebele, Martina Havenith. Antifreeze Glycoprotein Activity Correlates with Long-Range Protein−Water Dynamics. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2010; : 100816142208022 DOI: 10.1021/ja1051632

Image (c) wikimedia.com