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Introduction to the World Ocean


Fig. 1.1. Earth from space

Image courtesy of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Pacific Services Center

The ocean, which covers over two-thirds of the earth’s surface, is the most prominent feature on our planet. We can easily see this prominence on maps and globes. Maps are important tools to use when studying, navigating, and communicating about the ocean.

Ocean Literacy Principles

Principle 1: The earth has one big ocean with many features.

Ocean Literacy Fundamental Concept: The ocean is the dominant physical feature on our planet—covering approximately 70% of the planet’s surface. There is one ocean with many ocean basins, such as the north Pacific, south Pacific, north Atlantic, south Atlantic, Indian, and Arctic. (OLP 1a)


To build an understanding of the ocean as a dominant feature on earth it is important to understand that, although the ocean has many basins, these basins are interconnected and their boundaries are not clearly defined.


These concepts will be explored in this unit through the following activities and investigations:



Principle 7: The ocean is largely unexplored.

Ocean Literacy Fundamental Concept: New technologies, sensors, and tools are expanding our ability to explore the ocean. Ocean scientists are relying more and more on satellites, drifters, buoys, subsea observatories, and unmanned submersibles. (OLP 7d)


In order to appreciate how advances in technology further our exploration of the ocean, it is important to understand how humans have traditionally navigated the ocean and how historical developments in map-making have led to a better understanding of the earth's features.


These concepts will be explored in this unit through the following activities and investigations:

Representative Image
Exploring Our Fluid Earth, a product of the Curriculum Research & Development Group (CRDG), College of Education. University of Hawaii, 2011. This document may be freely reproduced and distributed for non-profit educational purposes.