The Indian Ocean

The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world’s oceanic divisions, covering 70,560,000 km2 (approximately 20% of the water on the Earth’s surface). It is bounded by Asia on the north, on the west by Africa, on the east by Australia, by Antarctica.

The Indian Ocean is the warmest ocean in the world. Long-term ocean temperature records show a rapid, continuous warming in the Indian Ocean. Indian Ocean warming is the largest among the tropical oceans, and about 3 times faster than the warming observed in the Pacific. Research indicates that human induced greenhouse warming, and changes in the frequency and magnitude of El Niño events are a trigger to this strong warming.

Large rivers flowing into the Indian Ocean are the Zambezi, Shatt al-Arab, Indus, Godavari, Krishna, Narmada, Ganges, Brahmaputra, Jubba and Irrawaddy. The ocean’s currents are mainly controlled by the monsoon. Deep water circulation is controlled primarily by inflows from the Atlantic Ocean, the Red Sea, and Antarctic currents.

As the youngest of the major oceans, the Indian Ocean has active spreading ridges that are part of the worldwide system of mid-ocean ridges. The Central Ridge runs north across the Arabian Peninsula and Africa into the Mediterranean Sea.

Among the tropical oceans, the western Indian Ocean hosts one of the largest concentrations of phytoplankton blooms in summer, due to the strong monsoon winds. The monsoonal wind forcing leads to a strong coastal and open ocean upwelling, which introduces nutrients into the upper zones where sufficient light is available for photosynthesis and phytoplankton production. These phytoplankton blooms support the marine ecosystem, as the base of the marine food web, and eventually the larger fish species. The Indian Ocean accounts for the second largest share of the most economically valuable tuna catch. Its fish are of great and growing importance to the bordering countries for domestic consumption and export. Fishing fleets from Russia, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan also exploit the Indian Ocean, mainly for shrimp and tuna.

Research indicates that increasing ocean temperatures are taking a toll on the marine ecosystem. The tuna catch rates have declined abruptly during the past half century, mostly due to increased industrial fisheries, with the ocean warming adding further stress to the fish species. Endangered marine species include the dugong, seals, turtles, and whales.

An Indian Ocean garbage patch was discovered in 2010 covering at least 5 million square kilometres. Riding the southern Indian Ocean Gyre, this vortex of plastic garbage constantly circulates the ocean from Australia to Africa, down the Mozambique Channel, and back to Australia in a period of six years.

In 2016 six new animal species had been identified at hydrothermal vents beneath the Indian Ocean. These new species were a “Hoff” crab, a “giant peltospirid” snail, a whelk-like snail, a limpet, a scaleworm and a polychaete worm.

The history of the Indian Ocean is marked by maritime trade; cultural and commercial exchanges probably date back at least seven thousand years. Sumerians traded grain, pottery, and bitumen (used for reed boats) for copper, stone, timber, tin, dates, onions, and pearls. Coast-bound vessels transported goods between the Harappa civilisation in India and the Persian Gulf and Egypt.

The world’s earliest civilizations in Mesopotamia, ancient Egypt, and the Indian subcontinent, which began along the valleys of the Tigris-Euphrates, Nile and Indus rivers respectively, all developed around the Indian Ocean. Civilizations soon arose in Persia and later in Southeast Asia. During Egypt’s first dynasty, sailors were sent out onto its waters, journeying to Punt. Returning ships brought gold and myrrh. The earliest known maritime trade between Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley was conducted along the Indian Ocean.

The Indian Ocean’s relatively calmer waters opened the areas bordering it to trade earlier than the Atlantic or Pacific oceans. The powerful monsoons also meant ships could easily sail west early in the season, then wait a few months and return eastwards. This allowed ancient Indonesian peoples to cross the Indian Ocean to settle in Madagascar. In 1497 Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope and became the first European to sail to India and later the Far East.

The sea lanes in the Indian Ocean are considered among the most strategically important in the world with more than 80 percent of the world’s seaborne trade in oil transits through Indian Ocean and its vital choke points. The Indian Ocean provides major sea routes connecting the Middle East, Africa, and East Asia with Europe and the Americas. An estimated 40% of the world’s offshore oil production comes from the Indian Ocean.

Small islands dot the continental rims. Island nations within the ocean are Madagascar (the world’s fourth largest island), Bahrain, Comoros, Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles and Sri Lanka. The archipelago of Indonesia and the island nation of East Timor border the ocean on the east.

Now that you know more about the Indian Ocean, how does it sound to have a house right on its shoreline? Brenton-on-Sea in the Garden Route of South Africa in the Eastern Cape offers spectacular ocean views overlooking the Indian Ocean. This small town also boasts with amazing landscapes surrounding it. Want to buy home or vacant land? Contact Sophie Joubert today on 082 572 2729!