National Geographic adds fifth ocean to world map

(CNN) — Countless kids around the globe have actually matured remembering fundamental realities about location: there are 7 continents and 4 oceans.


National Geographic, among the world’s pre-eminent and most noticeable mapmaking groups, has actually formally decreed the presence of a 5th ocean. Called the Southern Ocean, it’s the body of water that surrounds Antarctica.

This confluence of the southernmost stretches of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans has actually constantly been a fascinating — and often controversial — area for oceanographers.

The choice to reveal the brand-new ocean corresponds with the launch of World Possible, National Geographic’s brand-new effort to notify, influence and empower individuals to live more gently in the world.

What remains in a name?

Generally, modifications to world maps are the outcome of political modifications — for instance, Czechoslovakia splitting into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, or Swaziland voting to alter its name to Eswatini.

However rather of showing a modification on the planet, the Fifth Ocean is an uncommon example of a mapmaker making an effort to modify the world.

National Geographic geographer Alex Tait describes why calling conventions can be so crucial.

“Part of mapping the world is using place names and features that are in common use among people who are describing the world, and this gets into some other things other than geopolitical naming,” he informs CNN Travel.

“The oceans are one of those things, so we want to keep track of how scientists, travelers, writers, people are using place names.”

Tait fasts to include that although National Geographic’s prominence in the mapping world offers its main decree more weight, others have actually been utilizing the term Southern Ocean currently.

“Oceanographers will probably rejoice that (the Southern Ocean) will be on Nat Geo maps,” states CNN’s environment editor Angela Fritz. She includes: “I can’t think of any earth scientists who disagree (with the designation).”

How to make an ocean

When it pertains to comprehending oceans, you require to begin with the essentials, states Tait.

“There’s one world ocean and it’s all interconnected,” he keeps in mind.

“We’re really talking about ocean regions, and there’s traditionally been the four: Atlantic, Pacific, Indian and Arctic. But for many, many years, scientists and others have been using the term Southern Ocean to describe the physical region of the ocean around Antarctica.”

So then, what makes the Southern Ocean various?

Tait simplifies.

“You go from warmer waters in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans to very cold waters around Antarctica. And then the salinity goes down. There’s a distinct fauna there, so minke whales, certain kinds of seals, penguins, fish and bird life are abundant in the Southern Ocean based on those environmental factors.”

Part of the inspiration behind National Geographic’s choice to call a 5th ocean, which was revealed on World Oceans Day (June 8), was that offering a location a name can likewise offer it status.

Ocean preservation is a big job, and it’s simpler to raise awareness about the Southern Ocean than it is to do the very same about “that one area of water.”

Although lots of nations and companies around the globe acknowledge the Southern Ocean, not everybody is on the very same page about precisely where it is.

National Geographic formally utilizes the 60 degree south latitude to draw the water border. Nevertheless, Australia thinks about whatever south of its nation the Southern Ocean.

In addition, environment modification contributes in attempting to identify where its borders might be.

national geographic southern ocean map

A National Geographic map reveals the Southern Ocean.

Courtesy National Geographic

Going there

French explorer and ecologist Jean-Louis Etienne just recently revealed that he had actually created a drifting laboratory particularly created for studying the Southern Ocean.

His production, nicknamed the Polar Pod, does not have a motor and will drift in the water at a sluggish speed in order to “orbit” Antarctica and collect information.

Etienne is intending to finish and after that release the Polar Pod by 2024. However the Southern Ocean’s waters aren’t empty for the time being.

The Southern Ocean Carbon and Environment Observations and Modeling (SOCCOM) job, which is run by Princeton University, has actually sent out some 200 robotic drifts into the ocean, all fitted with sensing units that determine salinity, oxygen levels, chlorophyll and other ecological information.

That stated, it’s going to be tough for routine tourists to include the Southern Ocean to their pail lists. Travel here is challenging, however possible — essentially, you’ll require to sign up with a ship going to Antarctica.

And make sure to load your anti-nausea tablets, since the water is infamously choppy.

Correction: A previous variation of this story misidentified the confluence of oceans now acknowledged as the Southern Ocean by National Geographic cartographers.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.