National Geographic : 1902 Sep
VOL. XIII, No. 9 WASHINGTON SEPTEMBER, 1902 L]]LATIIO AL GEOBIGBAPIIHIIC B ~ IMA[GAZINE3 PROBLEMS OF THE PACIFIC-THE GREAT OCEAN IN WORLD GROWTH.:: By W J MCGEE, LL.D., VICE-PRESIDENT NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY T HE greatest by far among great geographic features is the Pa cific basin. If all the conti nents and islands forming the face of the earth were joined in one great conti nent, its extent would scarce equal that of the great ocean; and if the mass of all the lands of the globe above sea level were poured into the Pacific, barely more than an eighth of the basin would be filled. Three fourths of our world surface is water ; a full third of this vast expanse, or a quarter of the superficies of the planet, is that of the great ocean, while its abysses are of such depth that a full half of the water of the earth is gathered into its basin. In every view the Pacific is vast, so vast as to tax if not to outpass our powers of contempla tion. Nor is it only in the magnitude of the basin that the Pacific is vast; its area is indeed unequaled and its abysses un paralleled in profundity and extent, yet the great world-scar becomes far more striking when regarded as a record of processes in planetary growth, and still more when viewed as a theater of that vital activity culminating in the growth of races and peoples and the develop ment of high humanity. The basin is bounded on the east by a wrinkle in the terrestrial face which on closer view re solves itself into the longest and second highest mountain system of the world, whose rocks must hold our best record of earlier world-making ; its other side, half a world-circuit away, is skirted by our greatest continent and several sub continents, which must give the globe's best record of the later stages in world building; while half its expanse is stud ded with islands which must tell elo quently of world-making whenever their *A lecture before the National Geographic Society, April 9, 1902. The summary and final lecture of the Afternoon Course of the season 1901-1902 on the general subject, " Problems of the Pacific." The course comprised also "Japan," by Prof. Ernest F. Fenollosa, March 12; "Australia and New Zealand," by Henry Demarest Lloyd, March 19 (published in this num ber) ; "The Lesser Islands," by Dr. C . H . Townsend, March 25; and "The Commerce of the Great Ocean," by Hon. O. P. Austin, April 2 (published in this volume, pp. 303-318).