The Indian Ocean is the third largest ocean in the world, comprising nearly 20% of the water contained on the surface of the world. This ocean is bordered by India and China to the north; the African continent on the west; Australia and the archipelago of Indonesia on the east and the Southern Ocean on the south. It is connected to the Mediterranean Sea by the Suez Canal. The Indian Ocean provides main routes for commercial ships around the world, as it connects important ports from the Middle East, Europe, Africa and the American continent.
The Indian Ocean covers an area of approximately 73,500,000 square km (28,556 square miles). The Pacific Ocean’s average depth is of about 3,890 meters, which is equal to 12,762 ft.. Its deepest region comprises 8,046 meters (26,400 ft.) below sea level and is located in the diamantina Deep situated in the Java Trench. The Indian Ocean connects important ports of the world, including Africa, the Middle East, Europe and America, through many short cut sea routes. A major feature in the Indian Ocean is the Rodriguez Triple Point, which is where three tectonic plates, including the Indian, African and the Antarctic crustal Plates, converge.
Much of the weather in the Indian Ocean region is affected by the monsoon, with strong winds blowing from the northeast for six months and then from the southeast for the next six months of the remaining year. During the winter monsoon, the clockwise movement of air produces fair weather and clear skies, while on the summer monsoon, the air pattern reverses, producing heavy rains and thunderstorms. The deep water circulation in the Indian Ocean is controlled by ocean currents from the Red Sea, Atlantic and Antarctic oceans. Temperatures remain at about 22 °C (72 °F) north of 20° south latitude; however, at 40° south latitude and beyond, temperatures may drop rapidly.
The Indian Ocean has important sea routes that connect major ports in Africa, the Middle East, Europe and the American continent. It is estimated that about 40% of the world’s oil production originates in the Indian Ocean. A heavy traffic of oil and oil products is transported along the Indian routes, and a large production of hydrocarbons are being exploited off the coasts of Saudi Arabia, India and Australia. The beaches bordering the Indian Ocean are rich in minerals. Piracy presents a threat to international shipping since the early years of this century.
The Indian Ocean is exploited by bordering nations for shrimp and tuna. Many countries rely on the ocean’s fish for domestic consumption and trade. The Indo-Pacific region encompasses one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems of the world. The coral triangle of this region accounts to over one quarter of the world’s coral reefs. Most coral reefs are found in tropical and subtropical waters located at 30° North or South of the world’s equator. Some sea animals thriving in the Indian ocean, including turtles, seals and whales, are considered as endangered marine species.
The earliest civilizations of the world, including the Mesopotamians, Indians, Egyptians, developed around the Indian and used it as a means for navigation, establishing the earliest marine routes in the world. This allowed them to know the best times for navigation, sailing to the west early in the season and returning to the east late on that same season. In 1497, Vasco de gamma became the first European to navigate the Indian Ocean by sailing around the Cape of Good Hope in Africa.