National Geographic Officially Recognizes Southern Ocean as Planet Earth’s Fifth Ocean

Most of us learned about the world’s oceans in elementary school. There’s the Pacific, the Atlantic, the Indian and the Arctic.

Now, there’s a sea change ahead.

Thanks to National Geographic, you’ll soon see a fifth ocean on your maps. It’s now officially recognizing the Southern Ocean, the waters swirling around Antarctica, marking the first time the organization has made such a change since it started drawing up maps over a century ago.

On World Ocean’s Day earlier this week, National Geographic announced the distinction, which many scientists and researchers have unofficially acknowledged for decades.

“Traditionally, there have been the four [oceans] defined primarily by land masses,” Alex Tait, National Geographic Society geographer, tells NPR’s All Things Considered. “We think it’s important to add this fifth ocean region because it’s so unique and because we want to bring attention to all areas of the ocean.”

National Geographic has produced maps, atlases and globes since 1915. But this is the first time they’re drawing up a new map that will recast the oceans.

The move catches up with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recognition of the Southern Ocean in 1999, when it earned approval from the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.

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SOURCE: NPR, Karen Zamora, Justine Kenin, and Emma Bowman

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