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Science & Technology

The Fifth Ocean

By Cody Sung

Volume 3 Issue 4

May 18, 2023

The Fifth Ocean

Image Provided by Gary Bembridge via Wikipedia

There have always been four named oceans on Earth – the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, and Arctic – until now. Recently there have been five oceans recognized and confirmed, with the Southern Ocean added to the list. At the bottom of the globe, it surrounds Antarctica, and its currents are unique enough for National Geographic to consider it a separate ocean. 

The Southern Ocean is at the bottom of the Earth, below the 60-degree southern latitude line. Scientists have considered it to be a separate ocean for decades, with the U.S. Board on Geographic Names considering its categorization as a separate ocean since 1999. This is due to the Antarctic Circumpolar Current containing the cold waters around Antarctica around the 60-degree line, forming an ecologically distinct area, with thousands of species living there and nowhere else. 

Despite the scientific evidence to prove the Southern Ocean was distinct from the others, attempts to make it official in organizations such as the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) were marred in controversy. In 1937, the IHO did recognize the Southern Ocean as distinct, however, they retracted this in 1953, stating that “the majority of opinions received since… 1937 are to the effect that there exists no real justification” for labeling the Southern Ocean. The draft fourth edition does include the Southern Ocean as a separate entity; however, it has never been published due to various naming disputes. Since National Geographic generally follows the IHO with marine names, it has not recognized the Southern Ocean either. However, they have broken from the IHO in labeling the Southern Ocean as an ocean. 

The Southern Ocean is unique and recognized by scientists, however, it has had a long history of not being recognized on the world map. That has now changed for the benefit of the scientific world. 




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