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Ocean centring approximately on the North Pole. Smallest of the world's oceans, it is almost completely surrounded by the landmasses of Eurasia and North America, and it is distinguished by a cover of ice. Lands in it and adjacent to it include Point Barrow in Alaska, the Arctic Archipelago, Greenland, Svalbard, Franz Josef Land, and northern Siberia. The ocean covers about 5,440,000 sq mi (14,090,000 sq km) and reaches a maximum depth of about 18,050 ft (5,502 m). Its marginal seas include the Barents, Beaufort, Chukchi, East Siberian, Greenland, Kara, Laptev, and White seas. Areas within the Arctic Circle were first explored beginning in the 9th century by the Norse. In the 16th–17th centuries explorers searching for the Northwest Passage reached the area; Martin Frobisher discovered the southern part of Baffin Island (1576–78), and Henry Hudson navigated the eastern coast of Hudson Bay (1610–11). Later explorers included Roald Amundsen, Fridtjof Nansen, Robert E. Peary, and Richard E. Byrd. Development of the area's natural resources was spurred by the discovery of oil in Alaska in the 1960s. Virtually all of the Arctic has now been mapped.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Arctic Ocean, visit Britannica.com.