an ocean surrounded by land

The Arctic

An Ocean Surrounded by Land

Primarily an ocean encircled by land, the Arctic is about the size of the continental United States. The edges of three continents – North America, Europe, and Asia – cross its boundaries, allowing humans access to the territory within the Arctic Circle. Arctic ice helps control Earth’s climate by reflecting light and heat back to space. The Arctic forms complex ecosystems harboring abundant life, including small organisms at the base of the food chain, sea mammals, and polar bears. Aboriginal peoples, including the Inuit, have lived in the region for thousands of years. Their wisdom and survival skills helped many explorers survive in this extreme but mesmerizing landscape.

Central Intelligence Agency, Courtesy of the University of Texas.


 Sea ice grows each winter and creates haul-out spots for seals and hunting grounds for polar bears. With the melting of ice, animals are becoming endangered.

Top banner image: Camille Seaman, Grand Pinnacle Iceberg, East Greenland, from The Last Iceberg, 2006