Thursday, 24 April 2008
who named the oceans ?
i can only find two answers so far. there is the pacific, comes from the latin mare pacifium, meaning peaceful sea. the modern version was bestowed upon it by Ferdinand Magellan, a Portugese maritime explorer in the late 15th/early 16th century. He was also the first known man to successfuly circumnavigate the entire globe. He discovered the Pacific by going through a strait of water passing through Argentina, now named the Magellan Straits. Obv why. (i think he might be a new addition to my dream dinner party list).
the other one i found is the atlantic, which isn't as interesting. during the period when ancient greece dominated the world, people assumed what part of the atlantic they could see was not an ocean but a river, flowing around the entirety of their flat discus of a world. so, it makes sense that the first part of the word atlantic refers to atlas - the guy whose job it was to carry us round on his shoulder.
i can't believe the indian ocean is only called the indian ocean, i mean, it is the 3rd biggest (but also the calmest) ocean in the world (which is why the East India Company was so wildly successful and I guess why Britain then conquered and ruled the country, since trade across the waters dividing them was so easy). It was known as the Western Ocean by Chinese traders, but even that seems weirdly Anglicised. Maybe I am being spastic. What is Chinese for Western?
It does seem strange it should be named after the country on one side of it. Why isn't it the Madagascan Ocean? And what did people call it before westerners discovered India? Or before Indians knew there was something waiting to fuck them over on the other side of it?