55 interesting facts about the Southern Ocean

Posted on May 15, 2022      54

1. The Southern Ocean is the youngest ocean on Earth.

2. The Soviet Union did not recognize the existence of the Southern Ocean, refusing to consider it a separate water area. Before the revolution, it was recognized, but in the Soviet Union it was believed that there were only four oceans on Earth: the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, and Arctic Oceans.

3. Although cartographers first distinguished the Southern Ocean as a separate water area as early as the 17th century, because, despite the absence of pronounced boundaries, its waters differ significantly from those of the other oceans.

4. The Southern Ocean was first described by Bernhard Varenius, the founder of Western geography, in 1650. According to his theory, these waters included the polar circle zone and the “southern continent.”

5. In the eighteenth century, they explored this region. That is when the Southern Ocean appeared on the world map. And the term itself was first used by James Cook.

6. In 1845, the conventional boundaries of the Southern Ocean were established. They were limited to the Arctic Circle.

7. In 1937, scientists identified the ocean in the Southern Hemisphere. The decision was explained because the outlines of the 3 oceans to the south are blurred. The waters next to Antarctica have their own characteristics. In addition, they are united by a circular current.

8. But then the separation of the Southern Ocean was abandoned. In its broad meaning, this concept was not used among sailors, travelers and scientists. The reason was that, according to the established tradition, the ocean was assumed to be a body of water, mostly limited by land.

9. In 2000, it was once again divided the waters of the Earth into five oceans. But the position was not ratified. And only on June 8, 2021, the cartographers from Nat Geo announced that the Southern Ocean will now become the fifth one, as the water current around Antarctica keeps the local masses original, so they are worthy to carry a separate name.

10. So on Oceans Day, a fifth ocean, the Southern Ocean, officially appeared.

11. In the Middle Ages and in ancient times, the Southern Ocean was often called the Indian Ocean.

12. The most common version regarding the boundaries of the Southern Ocean is 60 degrees south latitude. Thus, the first person to have been there was the Dutch navigator Dirk Geertz, who in 1559 reached 64 degrees south latitude.

13. James Cook, one of the world’s most famous navigators, also crossed the boundaries of the Southern Ocean. This happened in 1773, during his voyage around the world, and twice. And two more times during his second expedition.

14. The Southern Ocean is the youngest, not only by the date of its official recognition, but also by its age. This body of water is ascribed an age of 30 million years, as this ocean did not exist 30 million years ago, which makes it the youngest.

15. The Southern Ocean appeared after Antarctica separated from South America and drifted southward. A strait was formed, giving rise to the birth of the West Wind Current.

16. Otherwise, the new body of water is sometimes called Antarctica because of its geographic location. After all, the Southern Ocean washes the shores of the two continents, South America and Antarctica.

17. The Southern Ocean has no clearly delineated boundaries to the north, and the area is calculated from the lines of contact of warm and cold currents. The area is recognized as difficult for applications because it is inconstant and varies with seasonality. But it is conventionally accepted to consider the boundaries on one side of the entire coast of Antarctica, on the other - the 60th parallel.

18. Another unofficial name for the Southern Ocean is the Australian Ocean. The authorities of this state look upon its waters as being in proximity to the southern shores of the Australian continent. By the way, many new maps also show this.

19. The youngest by age and by emission, the ocean is also recognized as the smallest, with an area of 20,327 million square kilometers.

20. Among all the oceans of our planet, the Southern Ocean is the third deepest. Its deepest point is at the bottom of the South Sandwich Trough at 8,428 meters. This figure is comparable to the height of the highest mountains on Earth. And the average depth of the troughs is 3503 meters.

21. A new independent ocean combines the southern zones of the other three oceans, except for the Arctic Ocean. If you look at the map, you can see that the Southern Ocean is the southern areas of the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Oceans.

22. The relief of its bottom is divided into 3 sectors because of its cyclic shape: Pacific - from the meridian of Cape South East Cape on the Australian island of Tasmania to the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula; Atlantic - from the north of the Antarctic Peninsula to the meridian passing through Cape of Good Hope; Indian - from Cape of Good Hope to Tasmania.

23. The peculiarity of the Southern Ocean lies in the current of the Western Winds, which transports the local water column in an easterly direction.

24. To the south of these currents is the Western Coastal Current, due to which cold masses of water flow along the bottom from the coast of Antarctica to the north.

25. The Southern Ocean has the second largest number of coastal seas of any ocean on Earth. It has 13 of them, but the Indian Ocean has even fewer, only ten.

26. The young ocean has several seas: Lazarev, Davis, Amundsen, Commonwealth, Cosmonauts, Bellingshausen and others. They wash around Antarctica and all but the Scotch Sea are marginal.


27. Other water bodies are also present here. For example, the Straits of McMurdo, Drake, and Bransfield. And also bays - Berraz, Prydz, Lazarev, Dalman and Whale bays. They are practically indistinguishable, because they are covered all year round by many-meter-long glaciers.

28. In addition, there are archipelagos and islands in the Southern Ocean. The most important are the Malvinas, South Shetland, Kerguelen, South Sandwich Islands and others.

29. There are also ghost islands in the territory - Nimrod, Swaine, Emerald. They are so called because they are mapped, but in reality do not exist. This confusion is because navigators used to make mistakes, charting icebergs mistaken for islands. But with the development of astronautics, there are fewer and fewer ghost islands.

30. The Southern Ocean was formerly sometimes referred to as the Arctic Ocean by analogy with the Arctic Ocean.

31. The coastal waters of the Southern Ocean are always covered with a thick layer of ice in winter. Because of this, the area of Antarctica is inconstant - it increases in winter and decreases in summer when the ice melts.


32. There are hundreds of thousands of icebergs constantly drifting here, some of which have been there for years. There are more icebergs in its waters at one time than in any other ocean, even the Arctic Ocean. Nobody even counts small icebergs, but the number of more or less large ones exceeds 200 thousand of the year.

33. Especially large icebergs, the largest in the world, tens and sometimes hundreds of kilometers long, can be found here. Icebergs of this size break away from Antarctic glaciers every few decades on average.

34. The water salinity of this part of the World Ocean does not exceed 34 ppm. In winter, it increases in the surface layers, because salt is released into the water during ice formation. The values almost reach the deep values. As a result, the layers of water masses are mixed, and the salt sinks to the bottom. A similar process is more active near the Antarctic continental slope.

35. The total length of the coastline of the Southern Ocean reaches 17968 kilometers. Most of it falls on the coastline of Antarctica itself, the smallest continent other than Australia.

36. A maritime climate prevails over the waters of the Southern Ocean; as it approaches the coast, it becomes Antarctic. It is cloudy, cold and windy all year round. It snows in every season.

37. The climatic belt near the Arctic Circle gives birth to the most powerful winds of the planet. Frequent storms occur in these areas because of the strong temperature difference. Temperatures drop to -65 degrees Celsius in the winter. Scientists consider the atmosphere above the Southern Ocean to be environmentally friendly.

38. The major factors shaping the climate of the area are the Westwind Current and Antarctica itself. Because of their influence, the temperature rises to an average of 2, maximum 10 degrees of heat. During the polar night, the water area next to Antarctica freezes. To break the ice formed and drive away from the land can only powerful runoff winds.


39. Despite its harshness, the Southern Ocean is full of life. The waters of the Southern Ocean remain cold year-round. But some fish species that live in Southern Ocean waters have adapted to living in water with a constant temperature below 0 °C and are comfortable. In addition, many of the fish use the ice as shelter. New Zealand macrourus, notothenia, white-bellied pike, whiting, and blue whiting, among others, swim here.

40. Also, the fauna here is represented by a variety of animals: whales, many species of fish, birds, crustaceans, jellyfish and mollusks. The water is full of krill colonies - the biomass of crustaceans reaches 2200 million tons. This allows us to catch up to 70 million tons per year.

41. Krill is also a favorite snack and the major source of food for whales, seals, and penguins. The crustaceans themselves eat phytoplankton. There are over 200 species of it in the Southern Ocean.

42. Among feathered birds in the Antarctic area - besides imperial, small, and other - 17 species of penguins, petrels and skuas are widespread. Also here are fly and neat gulls, gray-headed and royal albatrosses. There are over 44 species of birds permanently inhabiting the coast.

43. Fauna here is scarce. There are almost no plants in the region. However, there are algae, adapted to develop at temperatures below -20 ° C. Red algae prevail, but you can also find brown ones. They can grow to gigantic sizes, for example, the length of macrocytis reaches 90 meters. Blue algae is the least abundant here.


44. The Weddell Sea, one of the coastal seas of the Southern Ocean, has the world’s cleanest and clearest water. Its clarity falls just a little short of the clarity of perfectly pure distilled water.

45. Human presence in the Southern Ocean basin is mainly related to tourism and fishing. Whaling used to dominate the area. From the 1930s to the 1950s, Antarctic whaling ships harvested up to 2 million tons of whale meat per year. But in the late 1960s the harvest of this resource declined markedly, and by 1985 it had declined, catching only 330 tons a year.

46. Also, seals used to be hunted here. The result was that many of their species on the islands of the Southern Ocean were on the verge of extinction. Today, this kind of hunting is forbidden and is not carried out anywhere. The number of some seal species has recovered - returned to the original level and even increased in some places.


47. Fishing is still going on here; it developed in the late 1960s. The catch in this ocean was 400,000 tons of fish per year. But subsequently the resource was reduced, respectively, and the catch decreased - did not exceed 100 thousand tons per year.

48. Since the early 1990s, the dominant industry in the Antarctic zone is the production of krill. Today, the level has stabilized and amounts to about 300 thousand tons of crustaceans per year.

49. Annually, over 30 thousand tourists from around the world come to the shores of this area. Most of them are interested in the Antarctic Peninsula, because it is equipped with an airfield and tourist base. People come by plane, but the vast majority come by ship, making cruises.


50. While there is a constant influx of tourists, there are still few here when compared to the rest of the popular places on the planet.

51. Besides, the Southern Ocean is not burdened by economic activity now - there is nobody here except fishermen. And those may catch only certain species of inhabitants, the rest are under a complete ban.

52. There are no shipping lanes with strong traffic, no minerals are extracted here as well. But the advantage is that as a result the local area is on the list of the cleanest areas on earth.

53. Set of all the ocean and sea waters bordering Antarctica, several scientists allocate in the Southern Ocean, although this issue is still a bitter dispute in the scientific community.

54. Despite years of controversy among scientists over the designation of this zone as a separate territory, it is a fact that a new, fifth Southern Ocean has now been established.

55. Probably, disputes and expressions of disagreement will be heard for a long time, but what cannot be disputed - this water area is unique and interesting with its unique nature.