The Arctic, Atlantic, Indian and Pacific are the four oceans we learned about in the geography class. But now we have a new ocean.
On World Oceans Day, which falls on June 8, the US National Geographic Society announced it would recognize the Southern Ocean in Antarctica, bringing the global total to five.
Unlike the Arctic, Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans – which are defined by the continents that bound them – the Southern Ocean is instead characterized by the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC). According to the National Geographic, the Southern Ocean includes most of the waters surrounding Antarctica out to 60 degrees south latitude.
“Rimmed by the formidably swift ACC, it is the only ocean to touch three others and to completely embrace a continent rather than being embraced by them,” Sylvia Earle, US marine biologist and oceanographer, told the Daily Mail.
Those familiar with the Southern Ocean know it’s unlike any other. “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,” Seth Sykora-Bodie, a marine scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told National Geographic.
Due to the ecologically distinct environment of the Southern Ocean, it’s home to thousands of unique species. The ocean also has wider ecological effects. For example, humpback whales are known to feed on small shrimp off Antarctica during the summer before migrating north to the warmer climates of Central and South America for the colder winter months, according to the Daily Mail.
National Geographic hopes their revised maps will bring public awareness to the region, thereby encouraging Southern Ocean conservation – but its significance is beyond that.
“We think it’s really important from an educational standpoint, as well as from a map-labeling standpoint, to bring attention to the Southern Ocean as a fifth ocean,” Alex Tait, National Geographic Society geographer, told The Post. “So when students learn about parts of the ocean world, they learn it’s an interconnected ocean, and they learn there are these regions called oceans that are really important, and there’s a distinct one in the icy waters around Antarctica.”
(Translator & Editor: Li Xinzhu(Intern) AND Luo Sitian)