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The Southern Ocean, also known as the Antarctic Ocean or the Austral Ocean, comprises the southernmost waters of the World Ocean, generally taken to be south of 60° S latitude and encircling Antarctica.
See the fact file below for more information on the Southern Ocean or alternatively, you can download our 21-page Southern Ocean worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
HISTORY & EXPLORATION OF THE SOUTHERN OCEAN
- What prompted the exploration of the Southern Ocean was the belief that a landmass to “balance” the northern parts of the Earth existed; this landmass was known as “Terra Australis”.
- The Portuguese explorer, Bartolomeu Dias, sailed around the Cape of Good Hope (the southern tip of Africa), coming in contact with the waters of the Southern Ocean.
- Over the next several years, geographers in Europe began to connect this “Terra Australis” with the coast of New Guinea, and into the tropics.
- The search for what was beyond the southern ocean prompted many explorers in the 16th and 17th centuries to get out onto the seas.
- Although ignored, Spanish explorer Gabriel de Castilla claimed to have seen “snow-covered mountains” during his expedition in 1603, which we know today was Antarctica.
- A succession of explorers from all over the world spent the next few decades traveling south in search of answers, with each explorer getting a little bit further south each time.
- On January 17, 1773 James Cook (pictured to the right) crossed the Antarctic Circle for the first time in history, and was eventually stopped by ice.
- Over the next few weeks, James Cook spent his time sailing north and south to determine the distances between places like New Zealand, Cape Horn, Georgia, and the South Sandwich Islands and Antarctica.
GEOGRAPHY & OCEANOGRAPHY OF THE SOUTHERN OCEAN
- The Southern Ocean is also known as the Antarctic Ocean due to its proximity to Antarctica.
- It includes parts of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans and their tributary seas.
- The narrowest part between Antarctica and another landmass is the Drake Passage, which is about 600 miles wide between South America and the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.
- The Southern Ocean includes a continental shelf, oceanic basins farther north, narrow oceanic trenches with high reliefs (as seen in the South Sandwich Islands), as well as oceanic plateaus.
- There is a spot in the ocean called the “Antarctic Convergence”, (pictured below), which is basically a curve that encircles Antarctica, where northward-flowing cold water meets warmer waters, and acts as a natural boundary.
- This boundary separates areas of distinctive marine life as well as very different climates.
- The Antarctic Convergence was described in detail by Sir Edmund Halley in 1700.
- The Southern Ocean is geographically the youngest of all the world’s oceans, and was formed about 30 million years ago.
CLIMATE AND BIODIVERSITY IN THE SOUTHERN OCEAN
- The temperature of the sea varies between 28 and 50℉ depending on how far south you are measuring.
- Cyclonic storms are frequent around the continent and are intense due to the temperature contrast between the ice and the ocean.
- From about latitude 40 south to the Antarctic Circle are some of the strongest winds found anywhere on Earth.
- Contrary to popular belief, the Southern Ocean is filled with a diverse range of animals.
- Many of these animals depend on the phytoplankton in the Southern Ocean, which is formed in the Antarctic Convergence.
- After phytoplankton, the next most important organism is krill, which is a crustacean that many animals such as whales, penguins, and seals consume frequently.
- Other animals that can be found in the Southern Ocean include emperor penguins, orcas, colossal squids, fur seals, blue whales, leopard seals, squid, albatrosses, and several species of birds.
- There are not too many fish species in the Southern Ocean, but the most popular are the snailfish, cod icefish, and eelpout.
- Some species of icefish have antifreeze proteins in their blood and tissue which allows them to live in freezing water temperatures.
- A rare fish called the “crocodile icefish” is a white-blooded fish only found in the Southern Ocean; they do not have hemoglobin and rarely have any red blood cells.
- There are many aquatic molluscs and cephalopod species found in Antarctica and the surrounding waters.
- The largest invertebrate in the world, the colossal squid, lives in the Southern Ocean.
- Many species of seals live in the Southern Ocean, including Crabeater seals, Weddell seals (which live the furthest south of all mammals), elephant seals, and Antarctic fur seals, to name a few.
Southern Ocean Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Southern Ocean across 21 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Southern Ocean worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Southern Ocean, also known as the Antarctic Ocean or the Austral Ocean, which comprises the southernmost waters of the World Ocean, generally taken to be south of 60° S latitude and encircling Antarctica.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- The Voyages of James Cook
- A Poem of Ice and Snow
- Southern Ocean Crossword
- Sealife Selfies
- Science in the South
- Southern Ocean Wordsearch
- Windy Webquest
- Word Web
- Southern Ocean Quiz
- Climate Change
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Link will appear as Southern Ocean Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, November 14, 2018
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.