Southern Ocean

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Southern Ocean

Area 20.327 million sq km
Coastline 17,968 km
Lowest Point -7,235 m (South Sandwich Trench)

Southern Ocean

The Southern Ocean was defined by the International Hydrographic Organization in 2000 through a vote of member states. It extends from Antarctica to 60 degrees S latitude, a border chosen to include the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. Most Australians consider the Southern Ocean to extend further north than the official definition, to meet the south coast of Australia.

The Southern Ocean is the fourth largest ocean on Earth, ahead of the Arctic Ocean.

Navigating the Southern Ocean is challenging. Icebergs can happen during anytime in the year and especially occur May to October. High winds and large waves form in the Southern Ocean due to winds blowing around the world unimpeded by any land-mass.

The Central Intelligence Agency indicates about the Southern Ocean:

A large body of recent oceanographic research has shown that the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC), an ocean current that flows from west to east around Antarctica, plays a crucial role in global ocean circulation. The region where the cold waters of the ACC meet and mingle with the warmer waters of the north defines a distinct border - the Antarctic Convergence - which fluctuates with the seasons, but which encompasses a discrete body of water and a unique ecologic region. The Convergence concentrates nutrients, which promotes marine plant life, and which, in turn, allows for a greater abundance of animal life. In 2000, the International Hydrographic Organization delimited the waters within the Convergence as a fifth world ocean - the Southern Ocean - by combining the southern portions of the Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, and Pacific Ocean. The Southern Ocean extends from the coast of Antarctica north to 60 degrees south latitude, which coincides with the Antarctic Treaty region and which approximates the extent of the Antarctic Convergence. As such, the Southern Ocean is now the fourth largest of the world's five oceans (after the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, and Indian Ocean, but larger than the Arctic Ocean). It should be noted that inclusion of the Southern Ocean does not imply recognition of this feature as one of the world's primary oceans by the US Government.[1]

According to Encyclopedia Britannica:

The structure of the ocean floor includes a continental shelf usually less than 160 miles (about 260 km) wide that attains its maximum width of more than 1,600 miles (2,600 km) in the vicinity of the Weddell and Ross seas. There are oceanic basins farther north that are as much as 14,800 feet (4,500 metres) deep, defined by oceanic rises and often marked by ranges of abyssal hills. There are also narrow oceanic trenches with high relief, such as the South Sandwich Trench on the eastern side of the South Sandwich Islands. Other relief features include oceanic plateaus that rise from the oceanic basins to depths of less than 6,650 feet (2,000 metres) below sea level and form rather flat regions, which are often covered by relatively thick sedimentary deposits. The most extensive such plateau is the Campbell, or New Zealand, Plateau, which rises southeast of New Zealand and extends southward beyond the Campbell Islands.[2]

The cruise company Hurtigruten says about the Southern Ocean:

The fourth-largest ocean after the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans, the Southern Ocean covers a minuscule 4 percent of the planet’s surface — about the size of the United States or China. The only smaller ocean, the Arctic Ocean, lies at the Antarctic’s antipode in the northern hemisphere. While small in geographic size, the Southern Ocean actually holds 150 times more water than all of the rivers in the world combined.

The extreme climate makes the Southern Ocean one of the coldest and most distinct places on earth. Water temperatures fluctuate between a chilly 50°F in the height of summer and a biting -85°F in the long winters.

Despite the inhospitable conditions, wildlife is abundant. Fur seals, blue whales, penguins, and squid all call the Antarctic, or Southern Ocean, with many of them surviving directly or indirectly on the phytoplankton that thrives off the icy shores.[3]

International Hydrographic Organization deems Southern Ocean to be the fifth ocean in the world

The website Thoughtco says concerning the Southern Oceean:

For some time, those in geographic circles have debated whether there are four or five oceans on Earth.

Some consider the Arctic, Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific to be the world's four oceans. Now, those that side with the number five can add the fifth new ocean and call it the Southern Ocean or the Antarctic Ocean, thanks to the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO).[4]

Blue Whales inhabit the Southern Ocean.

The website Windows to the Universe further explains:

So what makes the Southern Ocean an ocean?

According to the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), because of its distinct circulation pattern, the waters of the Southern Ocean are somewhat separated from other oceans even without continents to form borders. The Antarctic Circumpolar Current is the strong ocean current that circles eastward around Antarctica. Because of this ocean circulation pattern, the seawater in the Southern Ocean is colder. The colder and isolated water supports a unique marine ecosystem in the Antarctic.[5]

History of exploration of the Southern Ocean

Captain James Cook

The cruise company Hurtigruten says about the history of the exploration of the Southern Ocean:

Bartolomeo Diaz was the first known explorer to have reached the Southern Ocean, when he circumnavigated the Cape of Good Hope in 1487. In 1770, Captain James Cook searched for land in the Southern Ocean but found none, but discovered the prize of Botany Bay, Australia instead. In 1819, land was first sighted in the Antarctic Circle and it took until 1911 for the first person, Roald Amundsen, to reach the South Pole.[6]


See also: There are no atheists on a sinking ship and There Are No Atheists In Foxholes

“There is no such thing as an atheist in the Southern Ocean.” – Sir Robin Knox-Johnston[7]

External links


  1. Southern Ocean
  2. Southern Ocean
  3. The Most Southerly Ocean in the World, Hurtigruten website
  4. The New Fifth Ocean
  5. So what makes the Southern Ocean an ocean?, Windows to the Universe website
  6. Sailing the Southern Ocean
  7. Bear Grylls: ‘To have faith in our everyday lives takes courage’, GQ Magazine