Oceans and Seas
seas are large bodies of salt water. The
difference between the two is that a sea is smaller than an
ocean, and is generally surrounded by land. The four
oceans are the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Indian, and the
Arctic. An example of a sea would be the Red
lies between Africa and Asia in the Middle East.
Seas have positive and negative effects on human civilization.
They often act as a barrier to both
cultural diffusion and
invasion. However, many
civilizations developed good sea
travel and were able to overcome this effect. Great
Britain, Portugal, Spain, Greece, the
Roman Empire, the
Netherlands, Early China, and Japan all were major naval powers
at one time or another. In fact, for many of these
civilizations, oceans and seas acted as highways of
cultural diffusion, and invasion. Oceans and seas also
provide a rich source of food and other resources, such as
minerals and oil. Many of the above mentioned cultures
developed major fishing industries as a way to feed their
populations. Countries like Japan have a diet composed
mainly of sea products and farmed vegetables. Great Britain, in
the twentieth century, began drilling for undersea oil off the
north shore of Scotland. Today, this valuable resource
provides much of their energy needs.
A peninsula is an area of land surrounded on three sides by
water. Italy, Greece, and the southern part of India are all
peninsulas. The advantages and disadvantages of living on
a peninsula are the same as living in any coastal region.
An isthmus is a narrow stretch of land connecting two larger
areas of land. Panama in Central America is an isthmus.
The advantages and disadvantages of living on a peninsula are
the same as living in any coastal region.
A strait is a narrow stretch of water connecting two larger
bodies of water. Examples would be the Strait of
Gibraltar connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the
Mediterranean Sea, and the Strait of
Magellan, which is at the tip of South America, connecting the
Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.
Straits are strategically important due to the control of trade
or control of military access to a specific area. Controlling
the Strait of Gibraltar means controlling access in and out of
the entire Mediterranean Sea until the building of the Suez
Canal on the Red Sea.
Strait of Gibraltar
A Regular Coastline is smooth with very few natural harbors.
Africa is an example of a regular Coastline. Regular
make building ports and harbors very difficult.
Without these, trade, sea travel, and cultural
diffusion are near to impossible. But, this also
prevents invasion from the sea. This feature of Africa
kept invaders out of sub-Sahara Africa for millennia.
Africa's Regular Coastline
An Irregular Coastline is not smooth, and has many natural
harbors. India is an example of a irregular
coastline. This feature makes the development of ports and
harbors much easier, allowing trade, sea travel, and cultural
diffusion to occur. But, it also allows for an easy invasion
route. India has suffered through centuries of foreign
domination due to its easy access by sea.
India's Irregular Coastline
An Island is an area of land completely surrounded by water.
Examples include Iceland, Great Britain,
and Madagascar. Islands often lack many natural
resources and are forced to trade with other nations.
Most island nations develop good
of sea travel, such as Great Britain and Japan.
Throughout history islands have been used as stepping stones to
cross the major oceans. The Pacific Ocean is
full of Archipelagos, which are chains of
islands. Japan is a prime example of an
archipelago. Most archipelagos have irregular
coastlines which make them vulnerable to invasion, but also
foster trade and cultural diffusion. The many archipelagos
in the Pacific helped spread civilizations from
the Asian mainland, and would much later help European
circumnavigate the globe.