What’s the world’s best ocean? An objective and evidence-based ranking

The Pacific. It's alright, I s'pose. Image: Getty.

A few years ago, “Which is the best ocean on the planet” would have seemed like a meaningless question. It’s easy enough to identify the world’s biggest ocean (the Pacific), or the warmest (Indian), or the most conveniently located for the Piccadilly line (the Atlantic, unless you change at Heathrow). But the best? There’s no such thing, right?

Wrong. That’s because it’s 2016, Facebook is a thing, and a significant chunk of the world’s population now has access to a single platform on which they can enjoy cat pics, share memes, and rate large bodies of water.

So, here are the world’s five oceans, objectively ranked from worst to best according to their Facebook scores.

5th. Indian Ocean – 4.3 stars

A surprisingly poor showing for the body of water which contains such holiday destinations as the Maldives, Seychelles and Mauritius. (That a rating of 4.3 gets you last place is a reflection, perhaps, or just how many fans the bounding main has around the world.)

Why does it score so badly? Sam Sam has a theory:

That’s not one, but two, strikes against the Indian Ocean. No wonder it's struggling.

(Incidentally, it was actually quite hard to find the page for this one among the sea of Indian restaurants, travel businesses and other such things that Facebook wants to direct me towards instead. There’s also the page for the band Indian Ocean, which Wikipedia informs me are “widely recognized as the pioneers of the fusion rock genre in India”. Don’t say we never teach you anything.)

4th. Arctic Ocean – 4.4 stars

The Arctic Ocean is the smallest and shallowest of the world’s five major oceans, but that hasn’t stopped it from picking up fans.

 

Its page has also attracted this single issue campaigner, who has posted this exact comment rather a lot, actually.

3rd. Pacific Ocean – 4.6 stars

The Pacific is the largest, and arguably the most famous, of the world’s oceans. Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, it attracts a better quality of reviews:

 

Although this one’s a big baffling.

Oh hang on, there’s our old mate Swapna again:

No idea.

2nd. Atlantic Ocean – 4.7 stars

Just pipping the Pacific into second place is its old rival, the Atlantic. The latter may be smaller – but, for the users of Facebook, it’s also 0.1 stars better.

The reviews seem to reflect this:

Although not everyone is impressed:

And this one frankly raises more questions than it answers:

And so, finally, we are in a position to answer the question we posed at the outset of this watery odyssey: which is the world’s best ocean? By a process of elimination, it can only be

1st. Southern Ocean – 4.8 stars

Also known as the Antarctic, the Southern Ocean is generally thought to be the world’s coldest. That has not held it back in the ratings, though, and it’s currently toping the charts, with 4.8 stars.

Exactly where the ocean ends, though, is a matter of some controversy:

Quite so, Julie. As CityMetric readers know, boundaries are a serious business.

Will the Southern Ocean retain its crown? It’s attained its high rating based on just 18 ratings – far fewer than the 121 for the Atlantic, 406 for the Indian and 828 for the Pacific.

So tactical voting could yet knock it off the top. Atlantic Ocean fans – you know what to do.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @jonnelledge.

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Where did London’s parakeets come from?

Parakeets in the skies above Wormwood Scrubs, west London. Image: Getty.

Visitors to London’s many green spaces would have to be stubbornly looking at their feet to not see one of the UK’s most exotic birds.  Dubbed “posh pigeons” by unimaginative Londoners, these brilliant green parakeets stand out among the fauna of Northern Europe’s mostly grey cities.

‘Parakeets’ is actually an umbrella term referring to the multiple species, which can now be found in London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris and various German cities. By far the most common is the Indian ring-necked parakeet, easily recognisable by the stylish red ring around their neck, a matching red beak and, of course, the loud squawking.

In the last 50 years these migrants from South Asia have arrived and thrived, settling into their own ecological niche. In the UK, London is a particular stronghold, but although they may have originally settled in the leafy streets of Twickenham, the birds can now be found in cities as far north as Glasgow.

The story of how they ended up in London is a matter of some discussion and plenty of myth. One often reported theory is that the capitals’ current population are the descendants of birds that escaped from Shepperton Studios during filming of The African Queen, starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. Others would tell you that they escaped from Syon Park in the early 1970s, when a piece of debris from a passing plane damaged the aviary and allowed them to escape. This chimes with their original concentration in South West London.
My favourite story by far is that they were released by Jimi Hendrix on Carnaby Street in the late 60s. Bored of London’s grey skyline, he set the little fellas free to liven up the place.

However they got here, from 1970 onwards their numbers boomed. In 1992, 700 birds were recorded in London Bird Report. By 1998, 2,845 were seen in the London Area, and by 2006 the ring-neck parakeet was 15th most sighted bird in London.


Darwin would be proud at how well they adapted to the new environment. Toughened up by the hard Himalayan climate, they handle the cold northern European winters better than most locals. Global warming is often brought up in discussions of the parakeets, but it is certainly only part of the story.
It helps, too, that the birds have a 35 year lifespan and few local predators, enabling them to breed freely.

As with any new species, the debate has raged about whether they are harmful to the ecosystem. Strangely reminiscent of the debate over human migrants, often the birds have often been accused of stealing the homes of the natives. The parakeets do nest in tree cavities also used by jackdaws, owls and woodpeckers – but there is little evidence that native species are being muscled out. 

The also provide a food source for Britain's embattled birds of prey. Owls and peregrine falcons have been know to eat them. Charlie and Tom, two city dwelling falcons monitored by Nathalie Mahieu, often bring back parakeets as food.
Of more concern is the new arrivals’ effect on plants and trees. By 2009 their numbers in the UK had grown so much that they were added to the “general licence” of species, which can be killed without individual permission if they are causing damage.

And Parrotnet, am EU funded research project studying the development of parakeet populations across Europe, has warned of the risk they pose to agriculture. In their native India, the parakeets are known to cause widespread damage to crops. As agriculture develops in the UK in line with warmer climates, crops such as maize, grapes and sunflower will become more popular. In India the birds have been documented as reducing maize crops by 81 per cent.

So the parakeets remain divisive. Environmentalist Tony Juniper has disparagingly described them as “the grey squirrel of the skies”. By contrast, the University of York biologist Chris D. Thomas has argued that the parakeets should be left free to move and breed. He sees those wary of the parakeet boom of “irrational persecution” of the bird.

For good or ill the parakeets are here to stay. As so often with migrants of all kinds, there has been some unease about the impact they have had – but the birds, popular amongst Londoners, certainly add colour to the city. Thriving in the urban environment thousands of miles from their natural habitat, they are a metropolitan bird for Europe’s metropolitan cities. 

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