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Sunset over sea ice off the coast of Antarctica captured from the Nathaniel B. Palmer, an NSF research icebreaker ship, during an Antarctic oceanography research cruise.
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NOAA Corp Collection, Photographer Michael Van Woert

The Southern Ocean

The Southern Ocean is sometimes known as the Antarctic Ocean or South Polar Ocean. It surrounds Antarctica in the South Polar Region.

The Southern Ocean is a bit different from other oceans. Other oceans are seperated from each other by continents. But the Southern Ocean does not have continents that define its borders.

So what makes the Southern Ocean an ocean?

Seawater moves through the Southern Ocean in a unique way that separates the waters of the Southern Ocean from other oceans even without continents to define its borders. A strong ocean current circles eastward around Antarctica. Because of this ocean circulation pattern, the seawater in the Southern Ocean is colder and isolated. It is home to a unique marine ecosystem in the Antarctic.

Last modified April 13, 2007 by Randy Russell.

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The Summer 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist, available in our online store, includes articles on rivers and snow, classroom planetariums, satellites and oceanography, hands-on astronomy, and global warming.

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