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Where Do The World’s Oceans Meet?

Two huge ocean waves clashing.

Two huge ocean waves clashing. Photo credit: David Bostoc/Shutterstock.com

There are five oceans on earth, and all of them are connected with each other to form a continuous body of water. Historically, there were only four oceans, namely Atlantic, Pacific, Indian and Arctic. In the year 2000, the International Hydrographic Organization decided to carve out a new ocean surrounding the least populated continent at the bottom of the earth—Antarctica—based on the evidence that this water body has a distinct ecosystem and a unique impact on global climate. The Antarctic Ocean, also called the Southern Ocean, became the fifth ocean on earth and the fourth largest of the world's five oceans, larger than the Arctic Ocean.

Like national borders, the boundaries of the five oceans are clearly defined by the International Hydrographic Organization, although not everybody agrees with these boundaries, such as the CIA World Factbook.

The Pacific Ocean, the largest of the oceans, extends from the Southern Ocean to the Arctic Ocean. The eastern boundary follows the coast of North and South America, eventually meeting the Atlantic Ocean at Cape Horn along a straight line that extends from Tierra del Fuego to the Antarctic Ocean. The western boundary is defined by the East Indian Archipelago, the Philippine Sea, Japan Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk on the northern half, and the coast of Australia on the southern half. The Pacific Ocean meets the Indian Ocean at the Southeast Cape, the Southernmost point of Tasmania, down the meridian to the Antarctic Ocean.

boundaries of the world's oceans

The Atlantic Ocean, the second largest ocean, extends from the Southern Ocean between the Americas, and Africa and Europe, to the Arctic Ocean. It meets the Pacific Ocean at Cape Horn and the Indian Ocean at Cape Agulhas, south of Africa.

The Indian Ocean, the third largest, extends northward from the Southern Ocean to India, the Arabian Peninsula, and Southeast Asia. On the west, it follows the African coast until it meets the Atlantic Ocean at Cape Agulhas. On the east, it joins the Pacific Ocean near Tasmania.

The boundaries of the Arctic Ocean is more complicated because the landmass here is fragmented. Generally, the Arctic Ocean overlies the North Pole touching North America in the Western Hemisphere and Scandinavia and Siberia in the Eastern Hemisphere. It joins the Atlantic Ocean near Greenland and Iceland and joins the Pacific Ocean at the Bering Strait.

The Southern Ocean has the cleanest boundary—a perfect circle surrounding Antarctica following the 60th parallel. However, not all countries agree on the proposed boundaries, so this has yet to be ratified by members of the IHO.

southern ocean

Where to see the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans?

The most obvious locations to watch the waters of two oceans meet is at the boundaries. To see the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean meet at Cape Horn in southern Chile, you have to take a cruise ship that leaves from Ushuaia, in Argentina, and from Punta Arenas, in Chile. The ship rounds the Cape and if weather permits, disembarks visitors on the headland. The waters around this rugged headland is notoriously difficult to navigate, with rough currents, strong winds, and unpredictable weather. So a trip to Cape Horn might not always result in going ashore. If you are lucky, you can visit the lighthouse at the bottom of the world and the Cape Horn monument erected in memory of all the seamen who have perished from shipwrecks around the legendary Cape.

Cape Horn.

The headlands of Cape Horn. Photo credit: Boris Kasimov/Flickr

The lighthouse at Cape Horn

The lighthouse at Cape Horn. Photo credit: Alexandre G. ROSA/Shutterstock.com

Another way to see the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans is to climb a volcano. The Volcán Barú is located in Panama and is the tallest mountain in the country, at more than 11,000 feet. Volcán Barú is located at a point where the isthmus of Panama is about 120 kilometers wide. On one side of the isthmus lies the Atlantic and on the other side lies the Pacific. On a clear day, it is possible to see both oceans from the top of the mountain.

map of Volcán Barú

Position of Volcán Barú indicated by the red triangle.

Where to see the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans?

At Cape Agulhas, the southern-most tip of the African continent. Unlike Cape Horn, Cape Agulhas is fairly accessible with tour companies conducting regular tours to the Cape from Cape Town and other places. Unfortunately, there is lot of confusion among tourists regarding the actual meeting place of the oceans, a fact that locals take advantage of by taking tourists to Cape of Good Hope or Cape Point instead and selling them souvenirs.

Cape Agulhas,

Cape Agulhas in South Africa. Photo credit: PaulR1800/Flickr

Where to see the Indian and the Pacific Oceans?

The Indian and the Pacific Oceans meet at South East Cape, the southernmost point of the main island of Tasmania, in Australia.

South East Cape is located way off the beaten track. To get there, you have to first drive two hours from Hobart to a tiny settlement called Cockle Creek, which is the farthest point south anyone can drive in Australia. From there, South East Cape is a good two to three hours walk.

 South East Cape, tasmania

The amazing view from the South Cape Bay. The rocky headland in the distance is the South East Cape, the southernmost point of Australia. Photo credit: Tom Jastram/Shutterstock.com

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