Things You Never Knew About the Atlantic Ocean

The Atlantic Ocean is one of the world's largest bodies of water, and it consists of two ocean basins: The North Atlantic and South Atlantic. So, there's a good chance you've either been in it or flown over it. Curious to know more about the ocean the mythical island of Atlantis called home? Below, we reveal some of the most interesting facts about the Atlantic.


The Name Means "Sea of Atlas"

Wave crashing at La Fajana, Barlevento, La Palma, Canary islands, Spain
Credit: Eric Gevaert/ Shutterstock

The ocean's name originates from Greek mythology; it's named after Atlas.

Ever heard of the Titanomachy? This refers to a series of wars fought between the Titans and Olympians for control of the heavens. The Titans were led by Atlas and Cronus, while Zeus led the Olympians.

They say that history is always written by the victors, and this holds true in the case of the Titanomachy. According to legend, the Titans sustained heavy casualties, and Zeus imprisoned any Titan survivors in Tartarus. The powerful god reserved a more terrible punishment for Atlas, one of the foremost leaders of the Titans: Atlas was to carry the weight of the heavens and earth on his shoulders for all eternity.

Over a thousand years ago, the name Atlantic or "sea of Atlas," began appearing in texts, and it has stuck around ever since.


Milwaukee Depth Is the Deepest Point of the Ocean

San Juan, Puerto Rico looking out to the Atlantic Ocean in the direction of the Milwaukee Depth
Credit: Songquan Deng/ Shutterstock

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the deepest known point in the Atlantic is an area called Milwaukee Depth. It descends 27,493 feet. That makes it about as deep as Mount Everest is tall. The point lies within an area called the Puerto Rico Trench, sitting less than 100 miles off the coast of Puerto Rico.

This deep point isn't named after the city in Wisconsin, however. Instead, Milwaukee Depth gets its name from the USS Milwaukee, the United States naval ship that discovered it in 1939.


It's Said to Have Separated From the Pacific Ocean Almost Three Million Years Ago

Aerial drone shot of the world famous Atlantic Road in Norway
Credit: Andrey Armyagov/ Shutterstock

There's no consensus among the scientific community, but many scientists believe that the Atlantic Ocean separated from the Pacific 2.8 million years ago.

When the world first formed, the continents made up a large landmass called Pangaea. As the continents drifted apart over time, the space between them was filled with water from lakes and oceans.


It Was First Mentioned in Writing Around 450 B.C.

Aerial view to Beach on the Atlantic Ocean near Seignosse, France
Credit: yari2000/ Shutterstock

According to World Atlas, the Atlantic Ocean was first named in writing by Plato. The Greek philosopher wrote about the ocean in a tale about the fictional island of Atlantis, according to History.com.

In Plato's story, the Greek god Poseidon named Atlas the king of Atlantis and the ocean it sat in. Rumors of the island being real have circulated for years, although there's no real evidence it ever existed.

In an interview with Newsweek, Northwestern University professor Seth Stein explains that it's mathematically impossible for an island to fall into the ocean. Here's why: the island is less dense than the Atlantic waters, so it can't sink into it.


It Has an Underwater Mountain Range

Aerial landscape photo of Atlantic Ocean meeting the coast of Iceland
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The Atlantic Ocean is home to a massive mountain range in its depths called the Mid Atlantic Range. According to UNESCO, the mountain range sits mostly underwater, running from Iceland past the southern tip of Africa.

The range marks the point where the Northern American and Eurasian continental plates meet. In some regions, it can be seen above the water in the form of islands such as in Iceland, Azores, and Ascension Island.


You Can Find Diamonds in It

The rugged coast of the Atlantic Ocean on the Cape Peninsula in South Africa
Credit: Harry Beugelink/ Shutterstock

Most diamonds come from mines in Africa. However, over time, some of those diamonds have washed out to sea. Many have come to rest on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean.

According to CNN, six ships belonging to Debmarine Namibia (jointly owned by the Namibian government and diamond conglomerate De Beers) regularly plumb the depths of the ocean floor off Africa's western coast for diamonds. In 2017, De Beers produced 1.378 million carats in diamonds.


Over 130 Nations Border the Ocean

Aerial view of the city of Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil coastline
Credit: Brastock/ Shutterstock

Of the 195 countries in the world, 133 of them border the Atlantic Ocean at some point. The only continents untouched by Atlantic waters are Asia and Australia.

That said, it's commercially advantageous to have access to the Atlantic. Its waters are a convenient way to transport goods, and it's also a rich source of natural resources like oil and gas.


It Has the Biggest Tidal Changes in the World

Hopewell Rocks Provincial Park in Bay of Fundy at low tide
Credit: Andreas Prott/ Shutterstock

NOAA reports that the highest tide in the world occurs at the Bay of Fundy in Canada. According to the Bay of Fundy Tourism, the best place to see the majestic tides is at the World’s Highest Tides Ecozone. Tides here can reach above 50 feet in height.

The time between high tide and low tide is a little over six hours at the Bay of Fundy, giving visitors a chance to see dramatic tidal changes at least twice a day.

As the tide goes out, it leaves vast swaths of the ocean floor exposed. Water levels rise about 10 feet every hour, so be sure to make a note of this when you visit.


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