The Antarctic Ocean, which is also known as the Southern Ocean, surrounds the continent of Antarctica near the South Pole. It is the only ocean that completely surrounds a continent, but there are also many other things that make it special. Let’s explore some of the Antarctic Ocean’s special secrets.
The Antarctic Ocean’s Strange Formation and Naming
One thing that makes the Antarctic Ocean special is its age. It is the youngest of all the Earth’s oceans. Scientists say it is only about 30 million years old. It formed when South America split off from the continent of Antarctica. The strange thing about the Antarctic Ocean’s formation is that it is bordered by three of the Earth’s four other oceans. Parts of the Antarctic Ocean border the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Ocean. Those oceans are all bordered on many sides by land, but the Antarctic Ocean is almost completely bordered by water. That’s why scientists had to decide where its boundaries actually are. The northern limit of its boundary is defined as 60 degrees South latitude.
Another interesting fact about the Antarctic Ocean is that it wasn’t even called an ocean until the year 2000. Part of the reason why it was officially called an ocean is that its water is very different from the water that feeds into the area from the oceans and waterways around it. But some scientists still don’t think of it as an ocean.
The Water in the Antarctic Ocean
The water in some parts of the antarctic ocean is colder than anywhere else on Earth. The salt in it makes the water freeze at a colder temperature than fresh water. But even though Antarctica’s water is very cold and often ice covered, it is also home to something called the Antarctic Convergence. The Antarctic Convergence is a spot where the freezing cold water in the Antarctic Ocean meets the very warm southern waters of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. If you went swimming at the Antarctic Convergence it would be like swimming through a water curtain where one side was nice and warm and the other side was too cold for you to stay alive.
The Antarctic is also home to the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC), which is an ongoing flow of water that circulates around the continent of Antarctica. It is the strongest current found anywhere on Earth, and it also moves the most water. Within the ACC, which is also called the West Wind Drift, the water is not very salty at all, even though the Arctic Ocean, like all other Oceans, contains saltwater.
The Creatures That Live in the Antarctic Ocean
Some people think that penguins live at the North Pole, but most penguins actually live near the South Pole. They make their homes on the ice, but they swim and fish in the Antarctic Ocean. They have special layers of feathers that help them to stay warm and dry off quickly. They eat squid and krill, which are like tiny shrimp.
Most fish can’t live in the Antarctic Ocean because it is so cold, but a few types have adapted to the cold water. Some of them include the mackerel icefish and the Antarctic toothfish. Toothfish are often hunted illegally by humans, but Australia, France, and other countries are trying to protect them.
Another creature that lives in the Antarctic Ocean is the squid. Squid are found in all of the world’s oceans, but they are among the few animals that can survive the cold temperatures in the Antarctic Ocean. Giant squid can grow to be over 30 feet long. They eat smaller types of squid, as well as fish. They are well known for having the biggest eyes in the animal kingdom, which can be as big as beach balls when they are full grown.