The Seven Seas
In my book I wrote:
We are the meanest, nastiest pirates to ever sail the Seven Seas!
What are the Seven Seas, you might ask? I love explorers and geography and maps, so I wrote a report for school about the Seven Seas. It’s on my website. I bet you’ll be surprised because the Seven Seas do not include the two biggest oceans: the Atlantic and Pacific. And it’s NOT because oceans are not seas.
Here’s my report. I hope you like it. (I got an A!)
The Seven Seas
Most of the surface of the Earth is ocean, about 72%. The largest ocean is the Pacific, followed in order by the Atlantic, Indian, Southern (it surrounds Antarctica), and Arctic.
That’s only five main oceans, so why do people refer to the Seven Seas?
It’s because the term “Seven Seas” is very old and was used long before ships traveled very far on any of those five giant oceans. The Age of Exploration (which we talked about in class) started in the early 15th century and continued into the 17th century. During this period Europeans sailed the oceans, exploring Africa, the Americas, Asia and lots of islands in the oceans (called Oceania). But before the 15th century, most sailing took place in or near the Mediterranean Sea.
That’s where the Seven Seas originally got named. The Greeks, over 2,000 years ago, sailed all around the Mediterranean Sea, which seemed like the whole world to them. They thought the Seven Seas were the Aegean, Adriatic, Mediterranean, Black, Red, and Caspian Seas, with the Persian Gulf thrown in as a “sea.”
If you look on my map above, the first four of these seven are all in the little body of water (the Mediterranean Sea) between Africa and Europe. The last three are sort of to the east and south, but they’re not very big, either. These Seven Seas are actually very small compared to the great oceans, but they must have seemed very wide and dangerous to the seamen on the small ships of the old days.
During the Age of Exploration, however, when explorers ventured far into the great oceans, the definition of the Seven Seas changed. They became the Arctic Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico. That’s because these were the oceans the explorers wanted to explore.
Finally, during the 17th and 18th centuries, when there was a lot of trading between Europe (especially England) and China, the expression “sailing the Seven Seas” meant traveling to the other side of the world and back.
Today the Seven Seas include the Big Five I listed above, but the Atlantic and Pacific are divided into North and South, making seven.
Have you “sailed the Seven Seas”? If not, what have you done on the ocean?