Geographic Setting of the Pacific

The Pacific is the biggest and deepest ocean and deepest ocean of the world, and the largest single earth feature. Most regional studies are devoted to continents on which the water area is small and the land is all important, but the geography of the Pacific is concerned with a huge water area in which the amount of land is comparatively small.

Many scientific expeditions, casual navigators, and individuals have contributed to man's knowledge of the Pacific Ocean. Before the dawn of history rugged "Vikings of the Sunrise," as they have been aptly named by Sir Peter Buck, made long voyages on the Pacific Ocean and discovered and peopled most of the islands, no matter how distant. Centuries later came the Europeans-Balboa, Magellan, Mendaña, Quiros, Torres, Tasman, Cook, Vancouver, Bering, and Bougainville--and in the nineteenth century there were many Americans, most prominent of whom was Wilkes. The names of ships used on expeditions, for example, the Endeavour, Discovery, Beagle, Challenger, and Albatross, have become romantic words and symbols of scientific discoveries. Peculiarities of the native plants and animals and their distribution, the curious islands called atolls, the origin of the deeps and submarine canyons, and other problems associated with the Pacific have been challenges to the ability of scientists to formulate satisfactory explanations for the occurrences and the phenomena.

The Second World War introduced the Pacific to many Americans. The end of the war left the United States with many new responsibilities in the Pacific and with possible expansion of trade and investments. All these factors make for continued interest in the area and have increased the demand for information about it.

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