15 Facts about the Indian Ocean

March 28, 2024

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Socotra in the Indian Ocean

The Indian Ocean, a vast body of water bounded by Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Southern Ocean, covers roughly one-fifth of the world’s ocean area.

In this article, we reveal 15 intriguing facts about the Indian Ocean that will deepen your interest. So, keep reading to find out what they are!

1. It is the world’s third-largest ocean

The Indian Ocean has an area of 26,469,620 square miles (68,556,000 square kilometers) and covers 19.8 percent of the Earth’s surface. This makes it the world’s third-largest ocean after the Pacific and the Atlantic.

It has an average depth of 12,274 feet (3,741 meters) but plummets around 24,000 feet (7,300 meters) at its deepest point, the Java Trench.

2. It is bordered by 38 countries

The Indian Ocean is bounded by four continents: Asia, Africa, Antarctica, and Oceania. It stretches from Iran in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, South Africa in the west, to Indonesia in the east. Some other countries bordering the Indian Ocean are India (unsurprisingly!), Australia, Madagascar, and Oman.

3. It is a ‘closed ocean’

The Indian Ocean is known as a closed ocean because it is landlocked by Asia in the north and surrounded by land to the east and west.

4. It used to be called the “Eastern Ocean”

The Indian Ocean was originally called the “Eastern Ocean”, while the Atlantic Ocean was known as the “Western Ocean”. In 1515, it was renamed “Oceanus Orientalis Indicus”, translated from Latin, as “Indian Eastern Ocean”.

5. It is home to around a third of the world’s coral reefs

Coral reef off the Maldives
Coral reef off the Maldives

Approximately 30 percent of the world’s coral reefs can be found in the Indian Ocean.

Coral reefs are essential for ocean biodiversity, providing habitats for an array of marine species, including turtles, sharks, manta rays, and tropical fish. They are also vital to the livelihoods of people who depend on them for food, fishing, and tourism.

6. It supplies 40 percent of the world’s oil

The Indian Ocean has many oil deposits. So many, in fact, that it accounts for around 40 percent of the world’s supply of oil!

7. It has the most important sea lanes in the world

Like all oceans, the Indian Ocean is a global trading route. Its most important waterways are the Suez Canal, the Strait of Malacca, the Strait of Hormuz, and the Bab el-Mandeb. These sea lanes enable countries to efficiently transport all kinds of goods — such as food, fuel, vehicles, and electronic equipment — over long distances.

8. It has many of the world’s major seaports

The Indian Ocean has many of the world’s most important seaports. These include Mumbai, Chennai, and Kolkata in India, Singapore, Jakarta in Indonesia, Melbourne in Australia, and Durban in South Africa. 

9. It contains a lost continent

At the bottom of the Indian Ocean, under the island of Mauritius, lies an ancient continent dubbed ‘Mauritia’.

Scientists believe the land mass fractured and sank to the seabed when the supercontinent Gondwanaland split into Africa, South America, Madagascar, India, Australia, and Antarctica millions of years ago.

10. The Indian Ocean is a major tourist destination

Grand Anse Beach, Seychelles
Grand Anse Beach, Seychelles

Each year, millions of tourists visit Indian Ocean destinations for their crystal clear waters, vibrant coral reefs, and white sand beaches.

Some of the most popular islands in the Indian Ocean are the Seychelles, Mauritius, the Maldives, Madagascar, and Sri Lanka.

11. It is the world’s second-most polluted ocean

The Indian Ocean is the second-most polluted ocean after the Pacific. 

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans each year, with much of it ending up in the Indian Ocean. In 2010, a plastic garbage patch spanning more than 5 million square miles (13 million square kilometers) was discovered floating in it. 

12. A long mountain range lies on the ocean bed

A mountain range called the Ninety East Ridge divides the ocean into the East and West Indian Oceans. It stretches more than 3,000 miles (5,000 kilometers) along the ocean floor.

13. One of the worst tsunamis in history occurred in the Indian Ocean

In 2004, an earthquake in the Indian Ocean caused a tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people in 14 different countries. It was one of the worst natural disasters in modern history. 

14. It is the warmest ocean in the world

The Indian Ocean is the warmest of the Earth’s five oceans. During summer, surface temperatures can reach up to 82 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees Celsius) in the Bay of Bengal. However, temperatures vary greatly depending on the location. So, while it is warm near the equator, it can be extremely cold near the polar regions.

15. It’s home to many endangered species

Turtle in the Indian Ocean
Turtle in the Indian Ocean

The Indian Ocean is home to many endangered species. Some examples of these include turtles, dugongs, seals, whales, and fish species like the Butterflyfish and Angelfish, which can be found in the waters surrounding the Seychelles.

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