The sea, the world ocean or simply the ocean is the connected body of salty water that covers over 70 percent of the Earth's surface. It moderates Earth's climate and has important roles in the water cycle, carbon cycle, and nitrogen cycle. It has been travelled and explored since ancient times, while the scientific study of the sea—oceanography—dates broadly from the voyages of Captain James Cook to explore the Pacific Ocean between 1768 and 1779. The word sea is also used to denote smaller, partly landlocked sections of the ocean and certain large, entirely landlocked, saltwater lakes, such as the Caspian Sea and the Dead Sea.
The most abundant solid dissolved in seawater is sodium chloride. The water also contains salts of magnesium, calcium, potassium, and mercury, amongst many other elements, some in minute concentrations. Salinity varies widely, being lower near the surface and the mouths of large rivers and higher in the depths of the ocean; however, the relative proportions of dissolved salts vary little across the oceans. Winds blowing over the surface of the sea produce waves, which break when they enter the shallow water.