The National Geographic Society, a scientific and educational organization in charge of mapping land, sea and sky since 1915, has just announced the official birth of a fifth ocean.
We knew the Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic, Indian Oceans, now this is the Southern Ocean. Formed by the waters surrounding Antarctica up to the 60th parallel south, it's ocean is different from others. This is what Sylvia Earle, marine biologist emphasizes: "it is the only ocean to touch three others and to completely embrace a continent rather than being embraced by them" . In addition, the air is colder and the glaciers are bluer.
In reality, it's ocean is not new as Alex Tait, geographer at the National Geographic Society reminds us: “The Southern Ocean has long been recognized by scientists, but there has never been an agreement. international, we have never officially recognized it ”. Scientists belonging to the International Hydrographic Organization have been observing it since 1937. Baptized and then renamed, it seems that today this ocean has found its final name. In addition, the US Agency for Ocean and Atmospheric Observation formalized its existence last February, claiming it was a separate ocean.
As a reminder, the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) is an intergovernmental consultative and technical organization whose objectives are:
- coordination of the activities of national hydrographic offices;
- standardization of nautical charts and nautical documents;
- the adoption of efficient and reliable methods for carrying out and operating hydrographic surveys;
- the development of sciences in the field of hydrography and descriptive oceanography techniques.
The main body of the IHO is the International Hydrographic Bureau (IHB), based in Monaco (1)
The peculiarity of this ocean is that it is defined and bordered by a rapid current called the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, and not by land unlike other oceans. This current, the operation and importance of which we have explained in an article dated March 5, 2021 , plays a decisive role in regulating the climate on earth. Indeed, as National Geographic recalls: " This circumpolar extends from the surface to the ocean floor. It carries more water than any other ocean current in the world. It carries the waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian. It contributes to the global circulation system known as the thermohaline circulation, which transports heat around the globe. The dense, cold waters that sink to the seabed off Antarctica also help store carbon in the ocean deep. By these two processes, the impact of the Southern Ocean on the climate of the planet is crucial. "
It is to be hoped that the formalization of the name of the Southern Ocean will make it possible to put the spotlight on this region of the globe that is increasingly weakened due to global warming. We cannot repeat enough how essential awareness of an endangered ecosystem is because, as Eric Sala, explorer at the National Geographic Society , reminds us: “The Southern Ocean encompasses unique and fragile marine ecosystems that are home to wonderful marine fauna, including whales, penguins and seals and affects other parts of the world. Humpback whales, for example, feed on krill off the coast of Antarctica. Then, they migrate far north to overwinter, in very different ecosystems, this time off the coast of South and Central America. Some seabirds also migrate back and forth. "
In the end, raising awareness helps to conserve. Making the name of this fifth ocean official and at the same time bringing it out of the shadows will certainly help strengthen its protection. In any case, this is what we want.