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Bodies of Water

Last Updated : 28 Mar, 2024
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About 71% of the earth’s surface is covered with water. Bodies of water are stagnant or moving water accumulations on the earth’s surface. They come in various sizes and shapes ranging from small ponds to vast oceans.

In this particular article, we will focus on its types, characteristics, and importance along with some examples.

Let’s Explore!

Bodies of Water – Types

Water Bodies



These are the largest bodies of saltwater on Earth


Seas are partially enclosed with land and are smaller than oceans.


Lakes are large water bodies of freshwater surrounded by land.


Rivers are flowing water bodies that originate from other sources.


Ponds are smaller water bodies than lakes and most of them are human–made.


The freshwater from the rivers and the saltwater from the oceans combine to form estuaries which are semi-enclosed water bodies.

Bays and Gulfs

These are large indentations of coastline, typically with wide mouth opening into the ocean


Straits are narrow waterways connecting two large water bodies


Lagoons are shallow water bodies separated from larger water bodies

Oceans: The Vast Blue Expanse

Oceans cover over 70 percent of our earth’s surface, making it the largest body of water on our planet. They are very important in regulating the earth’s climate and supporting biodiversity. The planet has one large ocean but according to oceanographers, the world is divided into four distinct regions, the Pacific, Atlantic, India, and Arctic Ocean.

The Five Majestic Oceans

The world’s oceans are not only just vast expanses of water and surfaces but are dynamic ecosystems with their characteristics.



Pacific Ocean

  • It stretches from the Arctic to the Antarctic and is one of the deepest and largest ocean
  • It is bounded by Asia and Oceania in the West and America in the east.
  • It stretches from the Bering Strait to 60°S latitude through more than 120° of latitude.
  • It serves as a vital trade route and harbors diverse marine life.

Atlantic Ocean

  • The Atlantic Ocean, the second-largest ocean on Earth, covers approximately 20% of the planet’s surface area, extending over 41 million square miles.
  • It is bordered by America in the West, Europe, and Africa in the East, the Arctic Ocean in the North, and the Southern Ocean in the South.
  • Scientists divide the Atlantic Ocean into two basins, the North Atlantic Basin and the South Atlantic Basin.
  • The Atlantic Ocean is renowned for its high ocean currents, for eg – the Gulf Stream.

Indian Ocean

  • The Indian Ocean, the third-largest ocean on Earth, covers approximately 20% of the planet’s water surface, encompassing an area of over 27 million square miles.
  • It is surrounded by Africa in the West, Asia in the North, and Australia in the East. This ocean is named the Indian Ocean because of its proximity to India.
  • The Indian Ocean is a vast theater, stretching from the Strait of Malacca and the western coast of Australia in the East to the Mozambique Channel in the West.
  • It encompasses the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea in the North, all the way down to the southern Indian Ocean.

Southern Ocean

  • The Southern Ocean sometimes referred to as the Antarctic Ocean, encircles Antarctica, extending from the continent’s icy shores to the 60th parallel south.
  • The Southern Ocean remains one of the most unexplored regions in the world.
  • It was formed around 34 million years ago when Antarctica and South America drifted apart, creating the Drake Passage. This makes it the youngest ocean basin in the world.
  • Around the northern limit of the Southern Ocean, there is a natural, biological boundary called the Atlantic Convergence or Polar Front.
  • At the heart of the Southern Ocean lies the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC), a powerful oceanic current that flows clockwise around Antarctica, connecting the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans

Arctic Ocean

  • The Arctic Ocean is the smallest and shallowest of the world’s oceans which is surrounded by the northernmost reaches of North America, Europe, and Asia.
  • It is centered approximately on the North Pole.
  • The other name of the Arctic Ocean is the Northern Ocean.
  • Despite its harsh climatic conditions, it is home to a diverse array of wildlife, from polar bears to seals and the Arctic seabirds.

Seasalt water: The Hydrographic Expanse

The term “sea” generally refers to the large body of salt water, that is partially or completely surrounded by land. The only exception is the Sargasso Sea, which is defined only by ocean currents. Seas have their unique geographical features including coastlines, islands, and peninsulas.

Some Important Seas Of The World

Several seas around the world have their own historical, economic human-made, and cultural significance.



Mediterranean Sea

  • It is one of the most iconic seas in the world, bordered by Europe, Africa, and Asia.
  • It is also referred to as the incubator of Western Civilisations.
  • The eastern Mediterranean Sea is divided into two basins – the Ionian Basin and the Levantine Basin.
  • The highest temperature of the Mediterranean is in the Gulf of Sidra- off the coast of Libya

Caribbean Sea

  • It is located in the western Atlantic Ocean in the tropics of the Western Hemisphere, known for its crystal clear water and stunning coral reefs.
  • It is bounded by Mexico and Central America to the west and southwest, to the north by the Greater Antilles starting with Cuba, to the east by the Lesser Antilles, and to the south by the northern coast of South America.
  • The Gulf of Mexico lies to the northwest.
  • It has the world’s second-largest, it’s barrier reef – the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef.

Arabian Sea

  • It is surrounded by the Arabian Peninsula to the north and east, the Indian Subcontinent in the East, and the Horn of Africa in the South.
  • It merges with the Gulf of Oman to the northwest and the Gulf of Aden to the southwest and spans a total area of 1,491,000 square miles.
  • It is one of the most important features of this sea is the Maldive Ridge which runs along the ocean floor from the Arabian Sea into the Indian Ocean.

Red Sea

  • It is located between the northeastern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.
  • It is the world’s northernmost tropical sea as well as the world’s warmest sea.
  • It is connected to the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean to the south through the Gulf of Aden and the narrow strait of Bab el-Mandeb.
  • The northern portion of the Red Sea is bifurcated by the Sinai Peninsula into the Gulf of Aqaba and the Gulf of Suez, where it is connected to the Mediterranean Sea via the famous Suez Canal.
  • The world’s famous island found in the Red Sea is the Tiran Island.

North Sea

  • It is situated between, Great Britain, Scandinavia, and mainland Europe.
  • It covers an area of approximately 570,000 square kilometers.
  • The Kiel Canal, one of the world’s busiest artificial waterways, connects the North Sea with the Baltic.
  • The sea’s deepest part is the Norwegian trench which is 725 meters deep.
  • The shallowest area is the Dogger Bank, which is only 12 meters deep.

Baltic Sea

  • It is surrounded by several Northern European countries, including Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, and Denmark.
  • It connects to the Atlantic Ocean through the Danish Straits.
  • The Baltic Sea contains three major gulfs: the Gulf of Bothnia to the north, the Gulf of Finland to the east, and the Gulf of Riga slightly to the south-southwest.
  • It is the largest body of brackish waters and has a unique ecosystem

Difference between Seas and Oceans





They are the largest water body on the Earth, covering most of the planet’s surface

They are smaller bodies of water, partially enclosed by land.


They generally have consistent salinity levels, throughout vast expanses.

Their salinity levels may vary depending on evaporation, precipitation, and freshwater inflow.

Geographic Location

They are found on a global scale with distinct boundaries.

They are often found along coastlines.

Currents and Circulations

They generally have complex currents and circulation patterns.

They may have currents but not as extensive or complex as ocean currents.

Lakes – Inland Gems Of Nature

Lakes are a large body of water surrounded by land. Lakes are formed through various geological processes like tectonic activity, volcanic activity, and erosion.

Some Important Lakes



Lake Baikal (Russia)

It is located in Siberia, Lake Baikal is one of the deepest and oldest freshwater lakes in the world.

Lake Tanganyika

It is situated in East Africa, Lake Tanganyika is the second deepest lake in the world and the longest freshwater lake in the world.

Lake Victoria

One of the African Great Lakes, Lake Victoria is the largest tropical lake in the world by surface area.

Lake Titicaca

It is found between the border of Bolivia and Peru, Lake Titicaca is the largest lake in South America by volume and the highest navigable lake in the world.

Crater Lake

It is located in Oregon, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and is renowned for its remarkably blue water.

Rivers – Lifelines of the Land

Rivers are dynamic forces of nature carrying water from highlands to lowlands. Throughout history, rivers have been central to human civilization serving as a source of resources and livelihood.

Some Important Rivers



Nile River

It is the longest river in the world, flowing northward through northeastern Africa.

Amazon River

It flows through the Amazon rainforest in South Africa and it is one of the largest rivers in the world.

Yangtze River

it is the longest river in Asia and the third-longest in the world, flowing through central China.

Ganges River

It is one of the longest and most important rivers in Europe, flowing from Switzerland to the Netherlands.


Ponds are smaller water bodies than lakes with a surface area of less than 10 acres.

Some Important Ponds



Pondicherry Pond

It is also known as Ousteri Lake, is a man-made reservoir located near Pondicherry.

Mill Pond

Mill Pond is a historic pond located in Cambridge, England, adjacent to the River Cam

Benson Pond

It is also known as Beaver Pond and is located within the Congaree National Park in South Carolina, USA.

Shinji Pond

It is the largest lake in Japan and is a brackish lake located in Shimane Prefecture of Japan

Walden Pond

It is located in Concord, Massachusetts, Walden Pond gained fame primarily due to the writings of Henry David Thoreau.


The freshwater from the rivers and the saltwater from the oceans combine to form estuaries which are semi-enclosed water bodies. It is a vital transitional ecosystem where rivers meet the sea.

Some Important Estuaries



Thames Estuary

The Thames Estuary is the mouth of the River Thames in southeastern England, where it meets the North Sea. It includes the Thames Barrier, a flood defense system designed to protect London from tidal surges.

Ganga Brahmaputra Delta

It is one of the largest estuarines in the world and is formed by the confluence of the Ganga, Brahmaputra, and Meghna rivers.

Tijuana River Estuary

It is located on the border between California and Baja California, Mexico, the Tijuana River Estuary is an important coastal wetland and bird habitat.

Swan River Estuary

It is situated in Perth, Western Australia, the Swan River Estuary is an urban estuarine system that flows into the Indian Ocean.

San Francisco Bay

It is one of the largest estuaries on the West Coast of North America and is situated in Northern California Important Estuaries

Bay and Gulf

These are large indentations of coastline, typically with wide mouth opening into the ocean.



  • It is a large area of seawater partially enclosed by land, with a narrow opening to the ocean.
  • It is a broad inlet or recessed coastal area where the land curves inside
  • Gulfs are generally larger.
  • Bays are typically smaller.
  • They are formed by the movement of tectonic plates, resulting in large basins.
  • They are commonly formed through a combination of erosion and deposition.
  • Gulfs tend to have deeper water.
  • Bays generally have shallower water.

Some Important Gulfs



Gulf of Mexico

It is one of the largest gulfs in the world, located between the southeastern United States and northeastern Mexico.

Persian Gulf

It is situated between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula, the Persian Gulf is an important geopolitical and economic region, known for its oil reserves.

Gulf of Guinea

The Gulf of Guinea extends from Guinea to Angola, located along the western coast of Africa.

Gulf of Alaska

It is located off the southern coast of Alaska, this gulf is known for its rugged coastline and abundant marine wildlife.

Some Important Bays



San Francisco Bay

It is a large, shallow estuary, located along the coast of northern California. It is known for its iconic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and the Alcatraz Island.

Hudson Bay

It is one of the largest bays in the world, located in northeastern Canada.

Bay of Bengal

It is situated in the northeastern part of the Indian Ocean, bordered by India, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

Guantanamo Bay

It is a deep-water bay known for its controversial U.S. naval base, located on the southeastern coast of Cuba.


Straits are narrow waterways connecting two large water bodies. They are vital for maritime transportation, providing shorter routes between larger bodies of water.

Some Important Straits



Strait of Hormuz

It is located between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, making it one of the most strategically important waterways in the world.

Strait of Malacca

It is one of the busiest and most important shipping lanes in the world, located between the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian Island. It also connects the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea.

Bosphorus trait

It is located in Turkey and connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara. It is a key passage for Russian oil exports.

Taiwan Strait

It separates the island of Taiwan from mainland China and connects the East China Sea to the South China Sea.


Lagoons are shallow water bodies separated from larger water bodies. It acts as a natural buffer against coastal storms, helping to protect inland areas from erosion, flooding, and wave damage.

Some Important Lagoons



Venice Lagoon

It is one of the world’s most famous lagoons, located in northeastern Italy. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Chilika Lake

It is situated in the eastern Indian state of Odisha and is the largest coastal lagoon in India.

Laguna de Bay

It is located on the island of Luzon in the Philippines, the largest lake in the Philippines and one of the largest freshwater lakes in Southeast Asia.

Lagoa dos Patos and Lagoa Mirim

These two interconnected lagoons in southern Brazil, form the largest lagoon system in South America.

Ria Formosa

It is situated along the southern coast of Portugal and is a designated natural park.


Hence, we can conclude that bodies of water play vital roles in shaping the Earth’s geography, supporting ecosystems, and sustaining human life. Understanding and protecting these bodies of water are essential for preserving Earth’s natural balance and ensuring the well-being of future generations.

People Also View

Bodies of Water – FAQS

What are the types of water bodies?

The types of water bodies are : Oceans, Seas, Rivers, Lakes, Ponds, Estuaries, Lagoons and Bays.

What are the biggest bodies of water called?

Oceans are the largest water bodies on earth followed by sea. Rivers and lakes are relatively small.

What are the main water bodies of India?

There are three large bodies of water that surround the Indian peninsula. On the South of India lies the Indian Ocean, on the Western Coast, it is surrounded by the Arabian Sea, and on the Eastern coast lies the Bay of Bengal.

What is the second largest body of water?

Superior, one of the Great Lakes between the United States and Canada has the second largest surface area at 31,700 square miles.

Which is the largest lake in Asia?

The Caspian Lake is the largest lake of Asia.

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