Q129: What ocean is on the West Coast of the United States?

a. Atlantic Ocean
b. Pacific Ocean
c. Indian Ocean
d. Northern Ocean

Q130: What ocean is on the East Coast of the United States?

a. Arctic Ocean
b. Pacific Ocean
c. Southern Ocean
d. Atlantic Ocean

Question Background Information

The Pacific Ocean is the largest ocean in the world. In fact, it’s the largest anything in the world. The area it covers is actually larger than all of the continents combined. The name Pacific is derived from the name that the explorer Ferdinand Magellan gave it in 1521: mar pacifico, which means peaceful sea. But it is not so peaceful: it is home to active volcanoes—roughly 450 of them – seemingly bottomless trenches such as the almost seven mile Challenger Deep, and some of the most complex ecosystems ever discovered, such as the Great Barrier Reef.  (Nor was it ultimately peaceful to Magellan, whose effort to circumnavigate the globe in 1519 had to be completed by other members of his expedition after he was killed by islanders on the Philippines in 1521).

While the Pacific Ocean can boast that it holds 75% of the world’s active volcanoes, the Atlantic can lay claim to icebergs, shoals, violent storms, fog, and the Bermuda Triangle -- all of which can bring down a ship, even the ones deemed “unsinkable.” The Atlantic is also home to some of the largest creatures on the planet, such as the sperm whale, which can reach 70 feet in length, and which once anchored the whaling industry of New England.

Additional Content

Discussion Prompts

Though Columbus was not the first to cross the Atlantic, it was his voyage in 1492 that led to the colonization of the Americas. When he returned with tales of his travels and artifacts from the new lands, he whetted European people’s appetites for adventure and wealth. On the opposite end of the Pacific Ocean were the very lands Columbus had been hoping to reach in the first place.

Prompt 1

When it comes to geography, it is important to know both the land and the waterways. What ocean is on the west coast of the United States? And what ocean is on the east coast?

Prompt 2 

We know that access to water is important for a nation because it allows for basic survival as well as expansion, trade, and even defense. How did the Atlantic Ocean figure into the development of the United States? How does bordering two oceans, the Pacific and the Atlantic, help the United States in terms of trade and defence? Use current and past events to support your answer.