Skip to main content

Deep Dive Into Ocean Waves; Plus a Free Student Handout from AccessScience

Use this free resource to demonstrate the science of surface waves, wind waves, linear theory, stokes drift, shoaling & breaking, wave measurement, and more.

Download PDF

Access to this content is available to Ward's World readers for free from McGraw Hill's AccessScience, an award-winning, digital STEM resource containing exclusive articles written by expert scientists and engineers; biographies of well-known scientific figures; science news, videos, and animations; and much, much more.

Instructors can use AccessScience to guide students on their research project journeys, to help students understand scientific concepts, to support distance learning efforts, in flipped classroom approaches, and in countless other ways. 

Ward’s World and AccessScience have partnered to offer educators a no-obligation, free trial subscription to AccessScience. Request your free trial today to discover how valuable AccessScience can be for you and your students! Get your free trial now.

Middle School/High School

Surf’s up! The ocean is the largest body of water on the planet. It provides a home to millions of plants and animals and helps produce oxygen and regulate the global climate. With this free resource brought to you exclusively from McGraw Hill’s Access Science, students can take a deep dive into the mysteries of the Earth’s oceans. This comprehensive article explores surface waves, wind waves, linear theory, stokes drift, shoaling & breaking, wave measurement, and more!

But first, let’s dip our toes in the water with a few fun facts about the deep blue sea.

How many oceans are there?

Over the centuries, there have been changing notions about the number of oceans. Are there really seven seas?

Factually speaking, there really is only one global ocean. This boundless body of saltwater surrounds the continents and covers 71% of the Earth.

The 'Seven Seas' is an ancient phrase. Sinbad, the fictional mariner, is known for his voyages across the “Seven Seas.” In Greek literature, the seven seas referred to the Aegean, Adriatic, Mediterranean, Black, Red, and Caspian seas, with the Persian Gulf thrown in as a "sea." The modern concept of the Seven Seas includes the Arctic, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, North Pacific, South Pacific, Indian, and Southern Oceans.

Today, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) explains that it’s more common to refer to the five ocean basins: Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic, and Southern (Antarctic) Oceans.

How deep is the ocean?

The ocean is much deeper than people imagine. The average depth of the ocean is about 12,100 feet. The deepest part of the ocean is called the Challenger Deep and is located beneath the western Pacific Ocean in the southern end of the Mariana Trench, which runs several hundred kilometers southwest of the U.S. territorial island of Guam. Challenger Deep is approximately 36,200 feet deep.

According to NOAA, more than eighty percent of our ocean is unmapped, unobserved, and unexplored. Perhaps it’s only a matter of time before an even deeper part of our ocean is found!

Ready to dive deeper?

Download McGraw Hill’s AccessScience article, Ocean Waves, to set your students’ curiosity in motion with more facts about the ocean! Scroll up to get your free article.

Recommended products


Ward's® Oceanic Circulation Model

Complex ocean water circulation patterns become clear with our easy-to-observe working model.

Shop Now




Geoblox Oceanography Models

Help students understand oceanography concepts by building models. 

Shop Now




Weather Water Tanks: Fronts and Thermoclines Lab Activity

Easy-to-perform, hands-on lab demonstrates how fluids of different temperatures and densities interact. Simulates weather fronts and oceanography (thermoclines).

Shop Now