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Monday 1st September
Pacific Facts
The main ports and harbours in the Pacific are Sydney (Australia), Shanghai (China), Hong Kong, Yokohama (Japan), Pusan (South Korea), Manila (Philippines), Wellington (New Zealand), Vladivostok (Russia), Singapore, Kaohsiung (Taiwan), Bangkok (Thailand), Los Angeles (USA), San Francisco (USA) and Seattle (USA).

The Pacific was the last ocean discovered by Europeans. The first European to see the Pacific was the Spanish explorer Balboa, on 25 September 1513.

The name "Pacific" means peaceful and comes from the fact the early European explorer, Magellan, found its winds and climate more gentle that those of other oceans.

The Pacific makes up half the water surface of the Earth.

The Pacific is the largest of the world's oceans, its area is greater than that of all the world's land masses combined.

The Pacific contains the deepest ocean trenches in the world. The Marianas Trench is 11,034m at its deepest point. This is deeper than the height of Mount Everest.

The International Date Line runs north to south approximately along the 180 degrees line of longitude. When you cross the line the date changes by one day.

The North Equatorial Current, running 9,000 miles from Panama to the Philippines is the longest westerly running current in the world.

At irregular intervals, a warm current from the north called El Nino (the little child) deflects the Humboldt Current (plankton is deprived of the cold mineral rich waters). When this happens the fisheries industry collapses, the birds and other animals dependent on the small fish migrate or die and torrential rains fall in Peru.

Almost the whole rim of the Pacific basin is ringed with volcanoes and earthquake areas. (It is interesting to note that earthquakes also take place in countries where you might least expect them to occur).

In 1883 the volcanic island of Krakatoa exploded killing 36,380 people.

The earthquakes and volcanic eruptions of the Pacific sometimes cause a tsunami, a giant wave which can swamp islands and coastal settlements. A tsunami can travel as fast as 800 kph.

The Pacific's coral islands, called atolls, are formed on the top of submerged volcanoes by coral polyps. Because the coral grows on the ocean side and dies in the centre, the island grows outwards in a ring shape.

The Pacific's Great Barrier Reef, off the coast of Australia, is the world's longest reef.

The Pacific Ocean has many thousands of islands. There are large islands such as Taiwan and New Guinea (the second largest island in the world) then there are the smaller islands of Micronesia and Polynesia (whose name means many islands).

The Maori people of New Zealand first came to the island in large sailing canoes (tainui') from other Pacific islands in around the year 800.

In 1947 Thor Heyerdahl of Norway built a giant raft from balsa wood, the Kon-Tiki, and sailed 4,300 miles from Peru to Raroia Island in Polynesia with five companions. He wanted to prove that ancient peoples from South America could have travelled to the Pacific on rafts.

In 1990 the Oxford geneticist Bryan Sykes tested the mitochondrial DNA of the Polynesian inhabitants of the Cook Islands (between Tonga and French Polynesia). It was concluded that the ancestors of the Cook Islanders came from Asia.

Some people believe that the people of Tahiti first found their way to Hawaii by following the spring migration of the golden plover.

The people of the Pacific Islands made maps of the seas around them with small shells fastened to strings of palm fibre showing the islands.

Very few of the peoples of the Pacific had written languages but their history was remembered by the chiefs and priests. One old man in New Zealand could recite all the descendants of his ancestors who had lived eight hundred years before.

Easter Island in the south east Pacific was named by Admiral Roggeveen, a Dutch explorer, who came upon it on Easter Sunday. The island is famous for giant stone statues that were carved from the rock of an extinct volcano and then dragged across the island and set up on platforms.

There are many mysterious stone remains on the Pacific Islands, such as a stone circle in Samoa, the trilithon in Tonga and a paved road encircling the island of Rarotonga.

Captain James Cook, one of the most important explorers of the Pacific, was killed in Hawaii.

Pitcairn Island is famous as the hiding place for some years of the mutineers from Captain Bligh's ship, the British HMS Bounty.

Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick, sailed on a whaling ship to the South Pacific. Because of the cruelty of the captain he and a friend deserted to live with a friendly tribe. Unfortunately they were captured by cannibals but were rescued by another whaling ship

The story of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe is based on the adventures of Alexander Selkirk who was marooned on an island off the coast of Chile and spent four years there alone. However Portuguese historians claim that Defoe got his idea from the story of a Portuguese traitor, who fled to St. Helena in the Atlantic in the sixteenth century.

The Galapagos Islands are famous for their wide variety of wildlife. One of the strangest looking birds of the Galapagos is the blue footed boobie whose webbed feet look like a pair of rubber flippers.

Research by Professor Gregory Ryskin, published in 2009, suggests that the Earth's magnetism may be linked to ocean currents. (The general acceptance has been that Earth's magnetism is generated by molten metals flowing around the Earth's core.)

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