Map of the Indian Ocean
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The Indian Ocean

The Indian Ocean is the world's third largest ocean, after the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. The Indian Ocean is dominated by India, after which it is named.  To the west are the countries of Africa and the Middle East, from Madagascar up to Iran; and to the north of the Indian Ocean are the countries of southern Asia and southeast Asia and Australia are to the east.  South of the Indian Ocean is the Southern Ocean, surrounding Antarctica. 
The Indian Ocean is calmer than the Atlantic or the the Pacific Ocean (in spite of its name), and there was early trade crossing it. The reversing monsoon winds meant that a reliable crossing could be made at certain times of the year, and a return trip in the opposite direction at another time of the year.  Zheng He (Cheng Ho) sailed from China around 1405 with a fleet of ships to Somalia and the Middle East, bringing back to China such exotic items as a giraffe.  While it is probable that no one had made the entire trip before, Zheng He followed established routes for parts of his seven voyages.

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