Pacific Ocean  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. Its name is derived from the Latin name Mare Pacificum, "peaceful sea", bestowed upon it by the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan. It extends from the Arctic in the north to Antarctica in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia on the west and the Americas on the east.

History

Important human migrations occurred in the Pacific in prehistoric times, most notably those of the Polynesians from the Asian edge of the ocean to Tahiti, Hawaii, New Zealand, Easter Island and possibly even America.

The east side of the ocean was discovered by Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa in the early 16th century. Balboa's expedition crossed the Isthmus of Panama and reached the Pacific Ocean in 1513. He named it Mar del Sur (South Sea). Later, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan sailed the Pacific on a Spanish expedition of world circumnavigation from 1519 to 1522. Magellan called the ocean Pacífico or "Pacific" ( that meant peaceful) because, after sailing through the stormy seas off Cape Horn, he was surprised how calm the waters became. Although Magellan himself died in the Philippines in 1521, Spanish navigator Juan Sebastián Elcano led the expedition back to Spain across the Indian Ocean and round the Cape of Good Hope, completing the first world circumnavigation in 1522.

In 1564, five Spanish ships consisting of 379 explorers crossed the ocean from Mexico led by Miguel López de Legazpi and sailed to the Philippines and Mariana Islands. For the remainder of the 16th century, Spanish influence was paramount, with ships sailing from Mexico and Peru across the Pacific Ocean to the Philippines, via Guam, and establishing the Spanish East Indies. The Manila galleons operated for two and a half centuries linking Manila and Acapulco, in one of the longest trade routes in history. Spanish expeditions also discovered Tuvalu, the Marquesas, the Solomon Islands and New Guinea in the South Pacific.

Later, in the quest for Terra Australis, Spanish explorers in the 17th century discovered the Pitcairn and Vanuatu archipelagos, and sailed the Torres Strait between Australia and New Guinea, named after navigator Luís Vaz de Torres. Dutch explorers, sailing around southern Africa, also engaged in discovery and trade; Abel Janszoon Tasman discovered Tasmania and New Zealand in 1642. The 18th century marked the beginning of major exploration by the Russians in Alaska and the Aleutian Islands. Spain also sent expeditions to the Pacific Northwest reaching Vancouver Island in southern Canada, and Alaska. The French explored and settled Polynesia, and the British made three voyages with James Cook to the South Pacific and Australia, Hawaii, and the North American Pacific Northwest. In 1768 Pierre-Antoine Véron, a young astronomer accompanying Louis Antoine de Bougainville on his voyage of exploration, established the width of the Pacific with precision for the first time in history. One of the earliest voyages of scientific exploration was organized by Spain in the Malaspina Expedition of 1789-1794. It sailed vast areas of the Pacific, from Cape Horn to Alaska, Guam and the Philippines, New Zealand, Australia and the South Pacific.

Growing imperialism during the 19th century resulted in the occupation of much of Oceania by other European powers, and later, Japan and United States. Significant contributions to oceanographic knowledge were made by the voyages of HMS Beagle in the 1830s, with Charles Darwin aboard; HMS Challenger during the 1870s; the USS Tuscarora (1873–76); and the German Gazelle (1874–76).

Although the United States gained control of Guam and the Philippines from Spain in 1898, Japan controlled most of the western Pacific by 1914 and occupied many other islands during World War II. However, by the end of that war, Japan was defeated and the U.S. Pacific Fleet was the virtual master of the ocean. Since the end of World War II, many former colonies in the Pacific have become independent states.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Pacific Ocean" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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