The Southern Ocean

The Southern Ocean

The Southern Ocean surrounds the South Pole and Antarctica, and is the only ocean that travels all the way around our planet.

The Southern Ocean was formed only 30 million years ago when South America and Antarctica separated, making it the youngest ocean.

The Southern Ocean is also known as the Antarctic Ocean or the Austral Ocean.

Parts of the Southern Ocean freeze in the winter, forming huge blankets of ice . Icebergs will also be found drifting in the water, some of which could be several hundred metres high . So when you take the strong winds in as well it makes crossing the ocean dangerous. Ice-breaker ships often need to escort ships on their passage through the waters.

The Southern Ocean’s proximity to the South Pole causes it to experience one of the most extreme weather conditions.

It is thought that if all the ice-blankets and ice-bergs were to melt in the Southern Ocean, the oceans around the world could all rise by 65 meters.

The Southern Ocean was created and is known today as the fifth and newest world ocean by the International Hydrographic Organization in 2000.

The Southern Ocean is the fourth largest ocean of planet Earth’s five oceans, after the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean, but it is larger than the Arctic Ocean.

The Southern Ocean is about twice the size of the USA and it,s size is approximately about 35 million square kilometers or 14 million square miles.

The Southern Ocean only covers 6% of the Earth’s surface.

The water temperature of the Southern Ocean varies from -2 degrees Celsius to 10 degrees Celsius. (28 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit). Climate conditions depends on the seasons. The coldest is the winter and temperatures can go as low as -65 degrees Celsius.

Despite the cold temperatures, over 50,000 tourists explore the Southern Ocean every year.

The summer season in the Southern Ocean runs from October to February while the winter season runs from March to September.

The average depth of the Southern Ocean is around 3,350 metres, (10,991 ft).

The deepest point in the Southern Ocean with a depth of over 7,000 m (23,000 ft) is in the South Sandwich Trench.

The biggest waves occur in the Southern Ocean. The waves can grow as high as 60 feet (18 m) by the time they reach the shores of Hawaii, due to the strong winds that sweeps them around Antarctica and the further a wave travels, the bigger it gets, thus transforming them into massive plunging breakers.

The floor of the Southern Ocean has not been extensively explored but scientists do believe that beneath them are immense deposits of oil, natural gas and gold deposits.

The Southern Ocean, despite being located on one of earth’s most remote regions has several ports constructed on its shores. Some of the major ports are Mawson station,  Palmer Station, and  Rothera Station.

Most of the ports in the Southern Ocean are operated by the government research stations and are closed to private and commercial vessels.

The largest invertebrate found on Earth is the giant squid which lives in the Southern Ocean. It can grows up to 15 m/49 ft in length.

The Southern Ocean is home to the world’s largest penguin Species, the Emperor Penguin. It is also home to the wandering albatross, blue whales and fur seals.

The blue whale, one of the largest animals of the world is found in significant numbers in the Southern Ocean due to the abundance of Antarctic Krill on which the blue whale feeds.

The Southern Ocean’s water consist of many nutrients which encourages phytoplankton to grow. The plankton which are tiny plants and animals provide food for fish, mammals and birds.

In recent years their has been a decline in the growth of phytoplankton in the Southern Ocean. This is a cause for alarm as the phytoplankton is the main food for Krill, a key species of the oceans ecosystem. This has been blamed on the ultraviolet radiation from the Sun, from recent studies conducted.

Birds found in Southern Ocean are the albatross, terns, petrels and gulls.

Several big yacht races are held during the summer season in the Southern Ocean. The well known ones are the Volvo Ocean Race and the Global Challenge.