- National Geographic has officially declared the Southern Ocean as the world’s fifth ocean.
- This “new” ocean encompasses the icy waters around Antarctica below the Earth’s southern 60th parallel, making it home to “unique and fragile marine ecosystems.”
- The icy waters around Antarctica have previously been called the Antarctic Ocean or the Austral Ocean.
For more than 106 years, the world has known about the four oceans: the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, and Arctic. Now, National Geographic has named the Southern Ocean as the world’s fifth official ocean.
The Southern Ocean encompasses the icy waters around Antarctica, located below the Earth’s southern 60th parallel.
A fast current separates the Southern Ocean from the northern waters. This current, called the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, circles the Earth west to east around Antarctica, in a band centered around a latitude of 60 degrees south.
NatGeo pointed out that because of the colder and ecologically distinct waters below that current, the Southern Ocean is home to thousands of species found nowhere else on Earth.
National Geographic Explorer in Residence Enric Sala said, “The Southern Ocean encompasses unique and fragile marine ecosystems that are home to wonderful marine life such as whales, penguins, and seals.”
Seth Sykora-Bodie, a marine scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), shared, “Anyone who has been there will struggle to explain what’s so mesmerizing about it, but they’ll all agree that the glaciers are bluer, the air colder, the mountains more intimidating, and the landscapes more captivating than anywhere else you can go.”
The Southern Ocean was officially recognized as the world’s fifth ocean on June 8, World Oceans Day. The announcement aimed to promote conservation in the area after industrial fishing has blighted populations of krill and Patagonian toothfish through the years.
These waters around Antarctica have previously been called the Antarctic Ocean or the Austral Ocean. But the media and scientific community has made the Southern Ocean the most popular term. It is also the name used by NOAA and the U.S. Board on Geographic Names and the International Hydrographic Organization.
You can check out the full announcement from National Geographic.