The Southern Ocean

The Southern Ocean

Video. Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala reviews general facts about the Southern Ocean.


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Biology, Earth Science, Oceanography, Geography, Physical Geography

If you had to draw the boundaries of the Earth's oceans on a map, would you be able to? The answer is no—because there is really only one "world ocean." Oceanographers have divided the world ocean into five principal areas, or basins: the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Arctic, and Southern Ocean basin basins. National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala shares some facts about this wild, windy region.

Fast Fact

  • During the feeding season in Antarctica, a full grown blue whale can eat four to eight million krill, or four to eight tons, every day for six months. This daily intake would feed a human for at least four years!

Fast Fact

  • If Antarctica's ice sheets melted, the world's ocean would rise by over 61 meters (200 feet).

Fast Fact

  • Antarctica is pushed into the earth by the weight of its ice sheets. If they melted, the land would rebound or "spring back" about 495 meters (1,625 feet). This process would happen very slowly over the next 10,000 years. Scotland and Scandinavia are still rebounding today after the last ice age at the rate of roughly 0.5 meters (1.6 feet) a century!

Fast Fact

  • Winter temperature on the East Antarctic ice sheet averages -60°C (-140°F), much colder than a freezer! The lowest temperature ever recorded was -89.6°C (-193.3°F) at the Russian Vostok station.

Fast Fact

  • The Antarctic Convergence is an invisible climate boundary in the ocean between the Antarctic region and the rest of the ocean, where warm and cold water meet. Since it arose around 20 million years ago, there has been very little exchange of marine life across the convergence.
Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Samantha Zuhlke, National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
Marshall Daly, National Geographic Society
Mary Ford, National Geographic Society

Narrator: Enric Sala
Audiovisual: Steven Pickard
Scripts/Support: John Grotland, Barrett Worthington

Last Updated

January 8, 2024

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