The terms are largely interchangeable. However, strictly speaking, the way it was explained to me is there are only seven (7) oceans. The North Atlantic, the South Atlantic, The Indian Ocean, the North Pacific, the South Pacific and the Arctic and the Antartic Oceans. You often find an ocean or even a part of it divided into seas. For example, around Papua-New Guinea you have the Bismark Sea, the Arafura Sea, the Coral Sea et cetera. Seas are often named after island or lands close by to them, whereas oceans flank onto many lands.
Even oceans are fairly arbitarily located. For example, where does the Indian Ocean give way to the Antarctic Ocean? Where does the North Pacific become the Arctic Ocean?
Easy to see why it can be a little confusing...
It would simply be the size according to my knowledge. In the increasing size of water bodies there are ponds, streams, rivers, seas and oceans. There are numerous seas in the world, but there are 5 (7, if you divide the Atlantic and Pacific into north and south) oceans which are the largest water bodies.
A sea is part of an ocean that is partially surrounded by land. If it is totally surrounded, then it's called an inland sea. An ocean is a body of salt water with no boundaries and limitless volume. It's limitless because with no boundaries, definitive quantity cannot be deduced. Between the two, the ocean is the larger of the two. Oceans are enormous when compared to any sea. The largest sea in the world is the Mediterranean with a total area of 965,000 square miles which is much smaller than the smallest ocean in the world the Arctic at 5,427,000 square miles. There are only five oceans in the world namely the Pacific, the Atlantic, the Indian, the Southern and the Arctic while there are dozens of seas around the world. Seas being close to land are generally much shallower than oceans and therefore it is possible for plant and animal life to thrive on a sea bed because it is generally lit up by light. Ocean beds are much much deeper, and support only very basic life forms like bacteria and shrimp that feed on them in isolated parts. This is because no light reaches there and the pressure are such that marine life as we popularly conceive cannot survive. Some idea of the depth of an ocean can be had from the fact that the Pacific Ocean has an average depth of 3790 meters or 12,430 feet. The average depth of the Mediterranean Sea on the other hand is 4690 feet.
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